The argument in Westminster about the Government’s NHS Bill may have ended but council leader Jim McMahon and I are determined that Labour’s fight for the NHS in Oldham is just beginning.
Jim has said today: “Oldham’s NHS is coming under sustained attack from David Cameron. The Tory-led Government’s NHS re-organisation is already causing real harm to patients and is wasting over £16 million in our area.
“Longer waits for operations and chaos in A&E have returned, operations and treatments are restricted as the postcode lottery gets worse and thousands of nursing jobs are axed.
“I will ask our local NHS leaders to adopt five principles to protect the NHS from the worst that David Cameron throws at it. Labour will not sit back and wait for things to go wrong in our NHS – it is far too important for that.
“By joining forces with health professionals at local level, we can resist the drive towards the rationing of treatment and the encroachment of charges we are starting to see in our NHS.”
I’m in complete agreement with Jim and believe that May’s local elections will give Oldham’s voters, angry about what’s happening to our NHS, a chance to tell David Cameron what they think of his betrayal of NHS patients and staff.
Before the election he promised no more top-down NHS re-organisations but then brought forward the biggest one ever taking £3.45bn away from the frontline and running unforgivable risks with patient safety. A vote for Labour is a vote for the NHS.
Labour has announced its ‘NHS pledge’ – a five-point practical attempt to limit the damage of the NHS reorganisation. Labour will act as patient champions and the last line of defence for Oldham’s NHS calling on local health leaders to:
- Protect NHS founding values
- Prevent postcode lotteries
- Guard against longer waits
- Promote collaboration over competition
- Put patients before profits
Here are our five-point ‘NHS pledges’ in full:
1. Protecting an NHS free for all, resisting the encroachment of charges and unwarranted restrictions based on lifestyle choices.
In some areas, some patients are routinely being denied treatment based on their weight or whether they smoke. These things are wrong and we will speak out against them.
2. Preventing a postcode lottery.
The Government’s Health Act has laid the ground for a postcode lottery writ large. Already, patients in some areas are being denied routine treatments, such as for varicose veins, that are available on the NHS elsewhere. We will ask health professionals to work with others to maintain comparable access for all.
3. Maintaining Labour’s waiting standards for cancer, planned operations and in A&E.
Since the Government relaxed Labour’s targets, there’s been a 25% increase in people who waited longer than 18 weeks for operations. They lowered our A&E target – and have missed it in 13 of the last 14 weeks.
4. Promoting collaboration over competition; preventing the market destabilising valued NHS hospitals and services.
David Cameron wants hospitals to go into outright competition. Some valued hospitals are already threatened by this competitive free-for-all. Labour will call for a ‘one NHS’ approach in every community.
5. Putting patients before profits.
There are already signs that financial incentives may mean NHS patients get sub-optimal care. Labour will always be vigilant in protecting patient choice and preventing profiteering.