Coffee House

The question Labour won’t even consider on the NHS

22 April 2013

Labour’s new independent commission on health and social care aims to draw up plans on bringing together health services and social care so that the NHS can be financially sustainable. Launching the plans today, Ed Miliband said that ‘we must make every pound we spend go further at a time when our NHS faces the risk of being overwhelmed by a crisis in funding because of care needs by the end of this decade’.

But there is one big question that Sir John Oldham, who will chair the year-long review, won’t be asking about the long-term financial viability of the health service. It’s a question that some Labourites are well-attuned to, and that the chair of NHS England (formerly the NHS Commissioning Board) Malcolm Grant raised earlier this month. Grant told the FT that ‘it’s not my responsibility to introduce new charging systems, but it’s something which a future government will wish to reflect [on], unless the economy has picked up sufficiently, because we can anticipate demand for NHS services rising by about 4 to 5 per cent per annum’. Jeremy Hunt then confirmed to the same newspaper that he opposed more charges, and today Labour sources indicated to Coffee House that this idea was too awful to reflect on at all. A source close to Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham tells me:

‘We did not even consider it at all. It is just not something that the Labour party would even consider.’

Long-term funding and charges is something that any party considering the future of the NHS will need to mull, though, even if it concludes that reducing the health service’s free-at-the-point of access principle further (prescriptions are one example of existing charges) is too politically flammable to ever go near.

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Show comments
  • Simon Scarth

    The NHS is actually a very large business with a massive problem of ever
    increasing demand and finite resources. To pretend that it can be run as a
    social activity by a few bleeding heart lefties is exactly the problem. The rigors
    of a private company can come up with effective financial management and
    suggestions but then there has to be the choice to act or not on those
    strictures. A lightweight like ‘Killer’ Burnham (who cares little and
    understands less of the lesson of Mid Staffs) is not the answer. Even in the
    Netherlands where the market and insurance system operates there has been a
    gradual reduction in the true competition that insurance companies should work
    under. A consultant friend of mine had a scheme to make a significant reduction
    in costs to be told that the hospital would not like the loss of income. Of
    course the Doctors/Consultants and others have a vested interest in not
    providing realistic cost effective measures which would be their detriment?

  • HookesLaw

    ‘Long-term funding and charges is something that any party considering the future of the NHS will need to mull’
    So Miliband is instigating an enquiry but the costs of implementing its suggestions will not be considered?
    Oh so very socialist…

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Genius – an ‘independent’ commission.

    • tele_machus

      Mock not

      This is not another Lansley-Cameron Botch

      ‘services should be organised “around the needs of patients, rather than patients
      around the needs of services. That means teams of doctors, nurses, social
      workers and therapists all working together.” ‘
      What is so very wrong with that

      • Fergus Pickering

        The problem is money. Where is the money, old son? Or will we just borrow it?

  • Span Ows

    good picture: is it the one taken just after he was asked how long it was between seeing the documents about South Staffs and passing the buck? They want to bring health and social together? To blur the lines even more and make the whole even more untouchable cementing benefits in with healthcare?

    • tele_machus

      Bringing together health and social care will allow hospitals to concentrate on the sick rather than the elderly infirm
      I get a sense that this is a better response to Stafford than just brow beating the nurses
      I should add that Andy Burnham commissioned the first Stafford enquiry
      When is Hunt going to get a grip and act on Robert Francis

      • HookesLaw

        I would have thought that *separating* health and social care would allow hospitals to concentrate in the sick.
        Of course hospitals already concentrate in the sick. Are elderly not allowed to be sick?
        This is just a smoke and mirrors load of meaningless twaddle from Miliband.

        Burnham’s enquiry was so acute that under labour Cynthia Bower, who was from 2006 chief executive of the trust’s parent body, NHS West Midlands, was recruited to run the Care Quality Commission.
        The real truth only came out under a full public enquiry initiated by the Coalition.

        • tele_machus

          You deliberately misunderstand
          Visit any hospital and you will see that some half of the patients, particularly the elderly are over their admission illness and waiting for what I think they call a Social Service Package to either support them in home alone or in a home
          It is in the interests of the social service funders to delay to help their budgets but this recognises not the fact that a hospital bed costs 4 times that in a home
          Andy’s proposals will address this

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