Andrew George MP warns – the Health Bill would hurt the NHS, but risks hurting us more!

Posted on: 22nd September 2011

To watch Andrew’s speech in yesterday’s NHS debate  at Liberal Democrat conference, click here, and scroll forward to 2 hours 50 mins. To watch the whole debate go to 2 hours 35 mins.

You can read his speech below:

You deserve an explanation why I’ve consistently opposed the Health Bill since it was launched last summer.

I support the Coalition Government. I want it to succeed. So I want to do my best to save the NHS from this catastrophic train crash; which I fear will take this party with it.

I said at the last Conference (spring 2011) that “we can reasonably claim to be the architects of the NHS. We must not go down in history as the office juniors and apologists for the architects of its demise.”

That’s not to say there haven’t been important changes following the pause (which we successfully pressed for). This wasn’t 80% of what we asked for as Richard Kemp implied. Because it only took us to the foothills of the mountains we still need to climb.

It is also wrong for Richard to characterise those he disagrees with as “clinging to the structures of the past”. Let us remind ourselves what’s wrong with this Bill:

  • It breaks the Coalition Agreement
  • Is based on the false premise that the NHS performs poorly in comparison with Europe
  • Represents the, biggest upheaval of the NHS in its history at precisely the time it needs stability and certainty
  • Runs the v high risk of producing an NHS driven more by private profit than by a concern for patient care
  • Risks undermining emergency and other acute services through the fragmentation of health systems
  • Remains a major missed opportunity to produce a service more accountable to the communities and patients it serves; and
  • Fails to capitalise on the opportunity to significantly streamline the pathways between health and social care.

Some have adopted the fatalist wallflower position of saying that it’s already gone too far and that we can’t stop it now. It’s like saying that because the burglars have broken in we should just let them go ahead and ransack the house!

I’m concerned that this debate seems to be taking place in a sanitised political vacuum; unaware that the train crash is already happening outside.

It’s not just the hollowing out of the PCTs and other support functions. Efficiency gains are important. But because the system is becoming preoccupied with and damaged by the reorganisation or what is expected we’re now looking at cuts presented as efficiencies; adding to stress, lower morale, the compromising of clinical decisions and the growth of waiting list.

The politics are not good either. The NHS is more important to the general public than the fate of any political party.

Yes. Labour paved the way for this, with Tory support. The Bill is primarily a Tory plan with our grudging support or perhaps acquiescence.

It’s often said about elections that it all comes down to “the economy stupid”! Of course we cannot run successful public services with a failing economy. But we cannot afford to put the NHS at risk, just because we fear upsetting the Conservatives.

As we’ll find, for us it’s “the NHS stupid.”

Press coverage of Andrew’s speech and the Liberal Democrats NHS conference debate:

The Independent

The Guardian