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The NHS is 'lost', says Burnham

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has told Pulse that the NHS is already ‘lost’ and any further privatisation would make it ‘irretrievable’.

Mr Burnham said the Health and Social Care Act has led to the privatisation of the health service becoming ‘a bit of a juggernaut’ and another five years of the coalition Government, or a Conservative majority at the next election, will mean there will be ‘nothing left to save’.

He also defended plans to remove the control of budgets from CCGs and give them to health and wellbeing boards in a bid to prevent conflicts of interest.

Mr Burnham said on 4 March that ‘we have two weeks to save the NHS’, referring to the Lords vote on the Section 75 regulations, which stated that commissioners must put services out to tender unless they could demonstrate that only one provider was suitable for that particular service.

Although some revisions were made to the legislation, the Lords voted it through on 24 April. When asked whether the section 75 regulations going through meant the NHS was lost, he said: ‘As it stands, it is lost. Let me absolutely clear. When the [Health and Social Care]Bill was passed, it put in the foundations for a market.

‘The more time goes on, the more irretrievable the situation becomes – the more contracts are signed, the more services that are privatised, the harder it becomes for me to bring it back. It doesn’t happen overnight. The Bill has put in place the conditions that can accelerate this process.’

He added: ‘This privatisation agenda is becoming a bit of a juggernaut… My argument to the medical profession is that they will look at our time in government and say “you didn’t get everything right” and I will say fair enough and I have acknowledged where we need to do things differently going forward.

‘But I do ask them – in 2015, I think the NHS we all hold dear, we can glue it back together. If the coalition or a majority Conservative government win in 2015, if we have another five years of the atomisation of the NHS, I don’t think there will be anything to save in 2020.’

He also explained that his plans for moving control of CCG budgets to health and wellbeing boards – first will still leave room for clinical commissioning. He said: ‘I’ve always supported clinical involvement in commissioning, and I am not talking about abolishing CCGs. But I am saying let’s think about the broader picture… I don’t think clinical domination or even control of commissioning is a good thing as it enshrines a conflict of interest in the system. I think we’ll see this played out in the system in the coming months and years.’

The focus on the whole needs – and not just the medical needs – of the population may need a change in GP training to include a greater emphasis on mental health, he added.

He said: ‘I think there is a greater need for more mental health training for GPs. I think mental ill health is another of the bigger challenges of the 21st century and the first place to see that is the GP surgery. That is only going to grow…. It may have implications for training. But we want to work with the profession on that. True generalism is about thinking about that and understanding the whole person.’

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Readers' comments (11)

  • he is right we are being driven out of the NHS by the tories as were the dentists what is he going to do about it i have never felt so demoralised and both my partners are on anti depressants!!

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  • both tories and labour have been responsible for this.
    it was the labour govt which brought the idea of private companies and gave contract to private companies to run surgeries in some places and opened darzi centers. and now tories are moving forward with the same agenda of privatization and putting more pressure on health workers.
    normal economics will dictate when population increases and people live longer you need more money to look after them and more staff to look after them but the politicians are bent upon proving that we need less money and less no of AED and hospitals and less referrals and less investigations
    sounds like trying to give third world health system to a first world country

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  • Dear Andy, what about the major restructuring you plan with movement of commisioning to the health and well being board in the local authority. Two more years of chaos and stasis.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Andy , good to have some aspiration when you are on the opposition bench . But breaking promises is the common feature of politicians when they gain power in the government eventually . Things did not only get worse under this current government and you clearly know I mean.
    Ask yourself what your feeling was when Wayne Rooney said once a blue , always a blue and then moved on ........
    Of course , I am LFC fan instead ........

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  • Good point Vinci. Conservatives clearly said no top down reorganisation of the NHS and then..... There needs to be a massive change in politics to prevent any government form deviating in any way from it's manifesto becasue as it stands the system is a joke. I hold my hands up and say I voted conservative mainly becasue of that promise and I have since been made redundant from the service that I had been providing for over 20 years after it was privatised! Every time I see Cameron on the TV I can almost hear him saying "Sucker".

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  • Why do we lack the political will to recognise that the survival of the NHS or better, the creation of a health service for this country that is affordable and actually delivers instead of continues to kill people is an above party issue that can only be solved by putting the party politics and rhetoricals aside.

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  • How strange he sees this now.As a minister he could have done more to prevent it if he really meant to.Now we are possibly being set up for his future inability to reverse any changes.
    Also why has Pulse chosen such a subdued schoolboyish picture of him,they must have many on file?

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  • To be fair to him the 'nhs preferred provider' policy was hopelessly confused and conflicted, but it was based on his instincts as health sec.

    Giving the NHS budget to people who cant even get the bins emptied, however, is completely born-in-a-barn nonsense, and just as dangerous as any marketitsation.

    Local authorities are the people who brought us sub minimum wage contracts where carers work 12 hours but get paid for 8 (travel between clients excluded) and let hospitals pick up the pieces when care breaks down.

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  • Politicians of all parties won't admit that provision of modern medicine nominally free of charge is unsustainable. It is time to debate what we can realistically afford. Regrettably I doubt that this will happen in time to prevent the break up of the NHS. I may be cynical but interesting to see that former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt is to join Bupa.

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  • The NHs was lost before this Government came to power. Labour ensured that. Are there any hospitals that are not in the control of private companies? Who allowed private companies to take over GP services in the face of intense resistance from patients? Who set out to destroy the professionalism of doctors? Who fouled up out-of-hours care then blamed the GPs? etc etc

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