Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
The Tory Lib -; Dem Government is making the biggest shake-up to the NHS in its history, at the same time as asking the health service to find £20 billion in efficiency savings. This is reckless, posing a huge threat to healthcare in Islington and throughout the country.
The NHS offers a fantastic service, but it’s not perfect -;improvements can always be made. The Government should be building on Labour’s achievements. Instead, Andrew Lansley is forcing through ideological changes which the NHS Chief Executive David Nicholson described as “so big you will be able to see them from outer-space”.
In the Health Bill, Lansley creates Monitor: a new monster regulator in the health service, set up like the regulators for privatised utilities like OFGEN or OFWAT. Its primary purpose is to drive competition into the heart of health care, making it increasingly vulnerable to EU Competition Law.
This will take the ‘N’ out of the NHS – creating chaotic and fragmented services, in competition with one another, rather than the cooperating and collaborating bodies we need to ensure and improve patient care.
If competition is unleashed in the NHS, private companies will chase work that’s straightforward. What happens to those with disabilities, or mental health problems – the people who most need the NHS? Competition completely undermines any hope of equality of care.
In Islington our health care could be transformed, as what are seen as “weaker organisations” are forced to the wall. Lansley has removed regional service planning so any mergers and closures will not be managed but chaotic.
At the moment, we have Overview & Scrutiny Committees that can refer changes such as proposed hospital closures to the Secretary of State. This helps protect local services and make sure people’s voices are heard. That’s what happened to Finsbury Health Centre
In the future, these bodies will only be able to intervene when “guaranteed” or “designated” services are threatened. The Minister has already said that no A & E services in London are guaranteed. So the future of the Whittington A & E could be under threat again, without the power for local people to take it to the Secretary of State.
I asked Lansley on the “Save the Whittington” demonstration, if the A & E would be safe under a Tory government and he said it would. If he goes back on that promise it looks like we won’t be able to challenge the decision and him as we could before.
The abolition of Islington PCT Trust, leaves many unanswered questions. Finsbury Health Centre stands on land owned by Islington Primary Care Trust, so what will happen to the health centre? And what is to stop the land being sold off?
One thing is clear – Andrew Lansley hasn’t thought this through. His plans are reckless and will change the face of healthcare in Islington and throughout England. The BMA says that less than one in five doctors are supportive of Lansley’s plans but, no matter how often it is given, he will not listen to his doctors’ advice.