The Labour Party has said it will abolish the Coalition's NHS reforms should it win the election next year – but the proposals have not gone down well with health activists.
In its “battle for the soul of the NHS”, Labour announced at its annual conference it would generate more cash for the Service by taxing tobacco companies, hedge funds and homes worth more than £2 million. Alongside that pledge, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham promised to repeal David Cameron’s “toxic” Health and Social Care Act.
But one health activist PharmaTimes Magazine talked to called Labour’s plans “poorly thought out”, adding that another reorganisation would severely damage the NHS.
“Whether you agree with the reforms or not, any more change will cause more disruption to an already fragile system,” Julie Bailey CBE, the founder of Cure the NHS campaign group, which exposed the Stafford Hospital Scandal, said. “I believe the introduction of clinical commissioning groups has put clinicians in a much stronger position within the NHS but they need more time to find their feet in commissioning for a quality service.”
The NHS is expected to be one of the top areas of debate ahead of next year’s general election alongside the economy and immigration. With almost weekly reports citing the NHS funding crisis and other healthcare concerns, each of the political parties are expected to include a strong focus on the NHS in their manifestos with pledges to woo the voting public.
But Bailey wants the parties to be candid about the NHS. “It’s about time that whoever is in government was honest with the public and told us that we can’t afford to continue with the NHS the way it is. The demand outstrips what we pay for it, along with our expectations.”
“I think the majority of the public and NHS would agree with me when I say that the most important thing for the NHS would be to take it out of politics,” she added. “Every five years we have more instability as another health team tries to stamp its ideas – which are often poorly thought out and not for the benefit of the NHS, patients and the workforce.”
Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs echoed this sentiment saying Labour’s proposals could be “just as disruptive [as the Conservatives], causing even more upheaval for patients and distracting doctors and managers”.
And the Conservatives have come out fighting their corner, guaranteeing access to GPs seven days a week by 2020 if the party wins the election, as well as the promise to support GP practices in having longer opening hours. The party is also pledging that people will be able to access their medical records online from next April.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats plan to commit £1 billion in extra funding for the NHS, which would come from a tax on the richest. They also promise to introduce targets for treating people with mental health problems.
This article was published in the October issue of PharmaTimes Magazine. To read this and more articles, including what pharma wants from a new Government, click here.