Coffee House

Hunt prods Burnham for NHS policy details

19 July 2013

One of the many problems that Andy Burnham has encountered this week is that he has had to spend more time defending his record in the last Labour government than scrutinising the current government’s changes to the health service. He has performed the first task in a rather emotional manner, and the Conservatives may well feel that politically this week has been rather successful. But now they’re going after him on the policy side of things too, perhaps to underline how preoccupied Burnham is with his own reputation.

Jeremy Hunt has this afternoon written a letter to Ed Miliband, seen exclusively by Coffee House, which demands to know whether Labour supports the government’s new hospital inspection regime. The letter says:

Dear Ed,

In light of the serious failings exposed in the last Government’s hospital inspection and ratings system, and in the interests of securing a swift turnaround, I would be grateful if you could clarify the Labour party’s position on some critical issues relating to hospital standards.

As you know, we have appointed a new Chief Inspector of Hospitals to overhaul the inspection process, introducing longer on-site inspections and unannounced visits, larger inspection teams made up of doctors, nurses and patients, and rigorous Ofsted-style ratings. Your Health spokesman Andy Burnham appears to oppose these plans. He refused to support them in the House of Commons this week, and last month issued a public ‘note of caution’ on the Government’s plans to introduce more rigorous NHS inspections, describing them as ‘heavy-handed regulation’ to the NHS Confederation conference.

There is also evidence that he resisted similar attempts to make the inspection system more robust during his time as Secretary of State. Baroness Young, former Chairman of the CQC, told the Francis Inquiry that Andy Burnham blocked her attempts to change the previous flawed regulation system, known as the annual health check:

“The annual health check was … flawed in so many ways that I went and saw the Secretary of State and said I wasn’t prepared to carry on doing it in this way. It was nonsense … the data was old, there was too much reliance on self-assessment. She alleged that ‘common sense went out of the window on occasions’ and ‘it ran the risk of being very inaccurate.’ Critically, she testified that ‘having argued that with the Secretary of State [Andy Burnham], I was told firmly that we weren’t permitted to change it.’ In his evidence to the Francis Inquiry, Andy Burnham acknowledges that this was the case: ‘I recall having a discussion with her about it, and it was the view of the Department at the time that they didn’t want more change.’

There is absolutely no reason why a new policy on hospital inspections cannot be introduced on a bipartisan basis as I know we both share a commitment to ensuring there can never be a repeat of what happened at Mid Staffs. However I am very concerned that Labour still appears to be opposing a policy on hospital inspections that has widespread support and will drive up standards for patients. As such, I would be grateful if you would clarify Labour’s position on the new Chief Inspector of Hospitals as soon as possible.

Best wishes,


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  • Arnold Swift

    As long as it remains in public hands it remains a danger to the patients and the taxpayer.

  • David Lindsay

    You have lost this one. You always will. All that anyone ever hears is the Tories trying to introduce the pre-Obama American healthcare system into Britain. It doesn’t matter what they are actually saying. That is all that anyone ever hears. Or ever will.

    • HookesLaw

      No you don’t, utter rubbish.
      Brown supported private provision in the 2010 manifesto.

      • David Lindsay

        But that’s not what anyone ever heard. Or ever will.

        • HookesLaw

          You’ve heard it and pretend otherwise – so that tells us all we need to know about you!

        • Colonel Mustard

          It’s gradually changing. Labour is being rumbled.

          • David Lindsay

            No sign of that this week. Or any week.

            • Abhay

              Your guy Burnham, this Blairite remnant, is going to find the going very, very hard now. I am wondering if he will become something of a liability for Ed M?

              • David Lindsay

                “Very, very hard” from whom? No one would ever have voted Labour in a million years,so who cares?

                By contrast, nothing unites everyone who might ever have considered voting Labour more than a campaign to save the NHS from the wicked Tories.

                • Colonel Mustard

                  Which demonstrates how utterly bogus the Labour “movement” really is.

            • Colonel Mustard

              Wait and see.

              • David Lindsay

                Wait for what, exactly?

            • Colonel Mustard

              Oh look:-


              Burnham’s staff editing Wiki to remove any negative references to him with regard to his role in the excessive NHS deaths. Is that you mean by:-

              “. . . not what anyone ever heard. Or ever will.”?

              Because the Labour party are now busy covering up and removing the truth?

              • David Lindsay

                Everyone with staff uses them to edit their Wikipedia entries. God alone knows why. I mean, why bother?

    • Colonel Mustard

      You shouldn’t fall victim to your own propaganda whereby the identity of origin becomes more important than the identity of output. Many Labour party policies have sailed along quite happily until espoused by Tories, whereupon they suddenly become the work of the devil.

      Gordon was very comfortable with scratching capitalist backs and doing shady deals in order to pump money into his causes, largely foolishly undirected and unappraised. The PFI scandal springs to mind yet curiously does not seem to overly tax lefties on the lookout for political crimes.

      And don’t deploy the denouncement of Blair, Brown and New Labour gambit – “Nothing to do with us, guv” – not when practically the whole Labour front bench are Brown’s old gang.

      • David Lindsay

        I am talking about what everyone always hears in this debate. And always will. Regardless of what is actually being said. Them’s the rules. I don’t make them. Nor could I change them.

        • Colonel Mustard

          No you are not. You are talking about Labour propaganda and the way it is disseminated to the fools who swallow it. Big noise. Little truth.

          • Arnold Swift

            You two are basically saying the same thing.

  • starfish

    SOLH?I would be more impressed by a ‘stop the NHS killing our familes’ campaign

  • Ulysses Returns

    We see a more aggressive, much more Tory party these days, led by men (and a lady) I have come to admire and respect: Gove, Pickles, May and now Hunt. If this is Crosby’s doing, more power to him, and no wonder lab/libtard hate and fear him. Mr Hunt is of course quite right to press on against the criminally negligent placeman Burnham, and along with our glorious eleven giving it to the Aussies, I will enjoy the continuing humiliation and destruction of those other forces for foul play, labour and the unions, by a juvenated Conservative party.

    • tele_machus

      I am glad you picked the odious smug Hunt and Educational Social Darwinist Gove both of whom will be a major asset to the campaign of the forces of reason

      • Andy

        Unlike you Fascist there will be no tolerance of callous indifference to the sick and murder.

      • The_greyhound

        Forces of reason? a party that includes Keith Vaz, Harriet Harman and Diane Abbott?

        By those standards Hunt is princely, and Gove a hero.

        • tele_machus

          You mention 3 fine upstanding committed englishfolk who enrich our lives

          • Colonel Mustard

            They should be committed. All three of them. This country will be significantly liberated by the departure from politics of Harmthenation. I’ll leave it at that.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Not so odious or smug not to respond to a letter a day from ordinary people recounting their most shocking (non-Danny Boyle) experiences of the NHS. Something Burnham never managed to find time for. Presumably he was too busy keeping lids on.

        Caring, eh? You lot really are full of it. Full Of It.

      • Ron Todd

        Loath as I am to agree with anything you say it is a disgrace for a western country to have a health secretary who believes homeopathy is more than a very expensive placebo.

    • HookesLaw

      What a pity Fox made an idiot of himself and had to resign.
      What a pity Davis went on a self serving walkabout and put himself before his country.

      • Fergus Pickering

        Whatever Davis did, it was hardly self-serving, was it?

        • Count Dooku

          Good point. You can accuse Davis of being a narcissist but definitely not a self server.
          His actions did persuade the then govt to delay ID cards which were eventually scrapped. A great service to this country.

        • Hexhamgeezer

          Dunno – ask one of your under 40s oracles.

    • David Lindsay

      If David Cameron had told us that he intended to flog off our blood plasma supply to Mitt Romney, then Labour would have won the 2010 Election outright. No one can possibly doubt that.

      What if, as was admittedly always improbable, Romney had won in 2012? Our blood plasma supply would now be owned by the head of a foreign state.

      But Margaret Thatcher was indifferent towards the NHS, leaving it alone so long as she herself did not have to use it, while John Major was positively sentimental about it and really rather committed to it.

      The Conservative Party’s and (if you read The Orange Book) the Lib Dems’ opposition to the NHS is an expression of Blairism.

      Blair was the first major Party Leader to have been opposed to the principle of the National Health Service since 1945 at the latest, when it was in all three manifestos and would therefore have happened regardless of who had won that General Election.

      Let Cameron and Clegg be the last.

      • Fergus Pickering

        What, pray, is the principle of the NHS? Free at the point of use, is it? Why do I pay for my glasses and my teeth then? Why do people pay for prescriptions? Free at the point of use except when it isn’t, eh?

        • Wessex Man

          Why do people pay for operations rather than wait months?

        • David Lindsay

          I couldn’t agree more. I’d abolish these charges. And the hospital parking ones.

          • HookesLaw

            You would abolish hospital parking charges? Where would you find the money from?
            How would you provide spaces if people chose to park in a hospital all day because it was free?

            • 2trueblue

              Allowing outside business to charge obscene amounts is not the answer.

      • HookesLaw

        utter cobblers

        ‘The NHS has been using US-based supplies since 1998 as part of efforts to reduce the risk of the spread of variant CJD.

        who was in power in 1998??

        ‘Bain, which has invested in dozens of private and state-owned health companies worldwide, is prepared to spend £50m in capital investment on the Elstree laboratories.’
        ‘As the UK was unable to secure a long-term ‘safe’ blood supply for the NHS following the vCJD outbreak, the Government spent £50m in 2002 on the US firm that provided all of BPL’s plasma.
        The majority of NHS hospital plasma supplies come from PRUK, which sources all its plasma from low contamination risk groups in the United States’
        (The Indy)

        Our plasma already comes already from the USA dummy.

  • tele_machus


    Of course we support anything that will improve patient care

    Andy has been active today in the campaign for the front line

    A HOSPITAL campaign presented a 2,200 signature petition against NHS privatisation to the Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham during his visit to Eltham.

    Eileen Smith from Save Our Local Hospitals (SOLH) presented the document – also organised by Keep our NHS Public – which calls for publicly-owned A&E departments to be saved from closure and supported.

    The move comes as Lewisham campaigners wait on the results of a judicial review over the proposed downgrade of the area’s hospital services.

    Richard Cook from SOLH said: “Andy Burnham spoke very well and seemed well aware that the Labour Party needs to turn up the volume on their alternative NHS policy, and he assured the meeting they would deliver on it.”

    • The Laughing Cavalier

      Who is “We” Mr T? Are you a member of the Shadow Cabinet, the Labour Party Executive Committee or a UNITE plutocrat?

      • Paddy

        I hope they keep Andy Burnham until after the next election.

        A constant reminder of the NHS under Labour.

        • Andy

          Yup where callous indifference was the norm.

        • The Laughing Cavalier

          Don’t forget Dobson, Milburn, Reid, Hewitt, Johnson who preceded him during the NuLabour years.

    • HookesLaw

      What a pity (for you) Gordon Brown and presumably Burnham supported bringing private services into the NHS – in the 2010 manifesto.
      ‘ Trusts will be given the freedom to expand their provision into primary and community care, and to increase their private services – where these are consistent with NHS values, and provided they generate surpluses that are invested directly into the NHS.
      We will support an active role for the independent sector working alongside the NHS in the provision of care, particularly where they bring innovation ‘

      Labour also promised ‘we will deliver up to £20 billion of efficiencies in the frontline NHS,’
      and pathetically considering the mess it made of NHS IT projects it said, ‘We
      will scale down the NHS IT programme, saving hundreds of millions of pounds”

      The point of the NHS reforms was to bring more services locally, not less, but these will not be delivered by hospitals but local clinics and surgeries.

    • The_greyhound

      “Of course we support anything that will improve patient care”

      Oh no you don’t – you couldn’t care less, and have made it clear repeatedly. Your only concern is for the preservation of collectivist dogma, the maintenance of NHS bureaucracies, and the continued privilege of incompetent fellow-travellers like David Nicholson and Cynthia Bower. For you dead babies and abused old people are acceptable collateral damage in your personal war against the twenty first century.

      Sickening, twisted hypocrite.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Yes, I agree – Mischief. But why do you keep doing it? It’s just puerile propaganda. Surely even you can see that? Do you think you are “making a difference”?


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