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Labour to bring back former health secretary Alan Milburn in NHS reform role

Labour to bring back former health secretary Alan Milburn in NHS reform role

Former Labour health secretary Alan Milburn – who spearheaded increased private involvement in the NHS – is set to return in a role related to NHS reform.

Mr Milburn, who led the Department of Health for four years in the early 2000s, will support the new health secretary Wes Streeting in efforts to reform the NHS, according to a Sunday Telegraph report.

This follows the Labour Government’s assertion that the NHS is ‘broken’, with Mr Streeting announcing on Friday that this will be his department’s ‘policy’ from now on.

Mr Milburn’s role has not yet been agreed, and a Labour source ruled out the possibility of his appointment as NHS England chair, following speculation last week.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has confirmed that Mr Streeting’s first official visit in his Cabinet role will be to a GP practice.

The location of the GP practice is not yet known, but the health secretary will be joined by NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard. 

During his time in health ministerial positions, Mr Milburn drove through the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deals for hospitals, which contracted out the design and operation of the buildings to the private sector through long-term contracts. 

The policy, aimed at increasing competition between private companies to finance hospitals, was introduced by the Conservative Government in 1992, but pushed forward by Mr Milburn upon his appointment as health minister in 1997. 

He then introduced foundation trusts in 2002, which sought to give high-performing trusts more autonomy to make local decisions and therefore improve outcomes for patients. 

Mr Milburn, who was a strong supporter of Sir Tony Blair, has described his NHS reforms as giving patients ‘more choice’ and allowing the private sector into the NHS to work alongside public services.

Following his resignation as an MP in 2010, the former health secretary has taken up several roles affiliated with the private sector, including chair of a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) health industry board. 

The new Labour health secretary has also promoted the use of the private sector, most notably through his plans to deliver 40,000 extra secondary care appointments every week.

Labour’s manifesto said that it will ‘use spare capacity in the independent sector to ensure patients are diagnosed and treated more quickly’. 

In general practice, the party pledged to ‘reform’ primary care, trialling ‘neighbourhood health centres’, which would have GPs and other community health staff ‘under one roof’.

The plans seemed to resemble the party’s old ‘polyclinic’ model, also known as Darzi centres.

The health secretary has already received advice from Mr Milburn in recent weeks, and a Labour source told the Sunday Telegraph that the former Labour politician has the ‘courage to make really big reforms’ to the NHS.

Meanwhile, according to a recent update from DHSC, Mr Streeting will meet face to face with the BMA Junior Doctors Committee tomorrow to re-open talks to end strike action.



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Nick Mann 8 July, 2024 6:42 pm

Dreadful news. Thanks to Milburn’s zeal for PFI the NHS has a £30bn debt on an outlay of £13bn. Basic PFI maintenance is lacking eg shower cubicle broken in HASU ward.
Milburn’s 2002 Foundation Trusts were intended to sit entirely outside the NHS; thwarted only due to forceful lobbying by Gordon Brown. Milburn’s fervent belief in ‘choice and competition’ policies has proved itself to be false: they did not save money or improve patient care.
Milburn is/was Chair of PwC’s UK Health Industries oversight board. PwC boasts of its success in Health privatisations.
Milburn is also Chair of Bridgepoint private equity specialising in providing private sector Health services.
Milburn is/was Chair of US giant Centene’s subsidiary, Ribera Salud. Its massive Alzira PFI Hospitals’ finance project in Valencia failed dismally, with predictable conniving, and prosecutions for corruption. Valencia renationalised its Health system as a result.
Milburn has his fingers all over both PFI projects, which have incontrovertibly failed – both in UK and Valencia – but only Valencia took effective action to learn and roll it back.
Milburn was/is mistaken in his zeal to privatise the NHS. Milburn continues to advocate for NHS privatisation/PFI, possibly influenced by his vested interests in the profitability of corporations of his board members.
If Milburn prevails, the NHS’s precious money will accrue to private sector corporations who get to provide the NHS services, not patients themselves.
Milburn hasn’t learned from his failed policies, he’s doubled-down. Who on earth let him back in?

Sujoy Biswas 8 July, 2024 7:26 pm

Sadly we did!

So the bird flew away 8 July, 2024 7:46 pm

Very disappointed by this signalling from HMG appointing Alan NHSburn. His history of buying into disastrous neoliberal policies, introducing privatisation into the NHS, as NM outlines above, and subsequently personally enjoying revolving door relations with interested corporates puts me in mind of the previous Govt. Cut from the same cloth.

Merlin Wyltt 8 July, 2024 10:17 pm

Oh no