An admission by senior Conservatives to The Times that the Government’s NHS reforms represent its biggest “mistake”, has prompted a caustic response from its critics.
The newspaper quoted an unnamed senior Cabinet minister as saying that “we’ve made three mistakes that I regret, the first being restructuring the NHS. The rest are minor”. He was referring to the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, drawn up by ex-health secretary Andrew Lansley (pictured), plans which were described by one insider as “unintelligible gobbledygook”.
A former No 10 adviser told The Times that “no one apart from Lansley had a clue what he was really embarking on, certainly not the Prime Minister”. The adviser adds that Mr Lansley “kept saying his grand plans had the backing of the medical establishment and we trusted him. In retrospect it was a mistake”.
The reaction to the article has been scathing. Andy Burnham, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said that Prime Minister David Cameron’s re-organisation “inflicted chaos on the NHS and has dragged it down. Patients, doctors and nurses pleaded with the government to stop it - knowing it would cause chaos - but they refused to listen back then and an apology now is no use”.
He argues that the PM “ruled it out before the last election, broke his promise and brought forward the biggest NHS re-organisation ever at a cost of £3 billion. Patients can see A&Es in crisis and waiting lists rising - this mismanagement of the NHS proves David Cameron cannot be trusted with it”.
Clive Peedell, co-leader of the National Health Action Party, said that “this is a huge embarrassment for the Tories but also a depressing revelation”. He claimed that “within months of taking office, the Tories broke their promises of no top-down reorganisation of the NHS and no privatisation. They ignored widespread professional opposition and forced through their disastrous Health and Social Care Act”.
Mr Peedell added that “it’s totally reckless of David Cameron to have backed the reforms without even understanding them. And his decision to make the protection of the NHS a central part of his conference speech is now shown to be disingenuous and inept as behind the scenes he was regretting his own reforms as a huge strategic error”.