Bob Phillips, Kingston & Surbiton Labour Party member
In 2009, the Tories campaigned on a slogan of “No new top-down reorganisation of the NHS”. Not just a slogan, but a major plank of their platform. They came into power with a comprehensive plan for top-down reorganisation of the NHS – the bee-in-the bonnet of Andrew Lansley. They rammed it through; even when Parliament forced them to slow down for the consultations they had tried to avoid.
It became apparent within a few years that many aspects of the plan were not working, and were adding cost – the imposed competition, particularly, and the simple-minded ideology about commissioning. As NHS people always do, they found ways to work around the politicians’ idiocies. It took ten years for the Tories to admit the drastic failures, and now they are doing something about it.
But they are not just fixing the failures – they are bundling this up in another disastrous top-down reorganisation of the NHS, sweeping up into it the half-completed reorganisation embodied in ICSs – Integrated Care Systems. They – and, in this case, NHS leadership – are using it as a front for a major new effort at centralisation.
So, one government in power for more than ten years promises no reorganisation, then does a drastic one then does another one to undo some terrible damage and to do more ideologically-driven damage.
This is one – the worst of many – of the disastrous derelictions of a decade-long Tory government. Boris likes to hide from this. He pretended that he took the Tory tiller in a time of crisis and steered the ship in a wholly new direction. He certainly drove many of his more competent and calm sailors down the gang-plank, and manned his ship with a bunch of brainless over-excited pressed men, but it is the same Tory ship. He and Gove and others have been on the bridge from the beginning.
There has been one party in charge for over ten years. The current administration is accountable for the disastrous decisions they made when they were helping Cameron steer the ship. The criminal waste of resources and opportunity in the NHS was one of the worst shipwrecks on their watch, together with their failure to take account of a practice at pandemics, the run-down of emergency resources, terrible failures in manpower planning and nursing training levels, the persistent dodging of the Social Care Green Paper and the cavalier mismanagement of NHS personnel morale.
Labour must attack them on all these fronts, but our main attack is that they have been accountable for this for over 10 years. The Tories are responsible for telling lies, failing, and scrabbling to recover. There has been no consistent growth in the NHS, just disasters and cover-ups!