Monday 2 June 2014

Ed Miliband, Andy Burnham, Labour & the Privatisation of the NHS

On Monday 12th May 2014, Ed Miliband gave a key-note speech on the NHS in Manchester. I was privileged to be invited, despite not being a Labour party member nor indeed affiliated to any political party - I am non-partisan.
The following is a long quotation from his (hour-long) speech:
"It is up to us. Up to a Labour government to make the changes we need to make sure the NHS is there for the years and decades ahead.
And it’s about more than that too. It’s about restoring the fundamental values of the NHS.The basic principles.It’s about ending David Cameron’s dogmatic obsession with bringing competition and privatisation into the heart of the NHS. And reducing the huge costs that have come about because of that terrible Bill. The last Labour government showed how private companies can sometimes help bring down waiting lists or provide specialist services that the NHS can’t. So, of course, there is some role for the private sector in our health service. But this government doesn’t just want to do that. It thinks competition and privatisation should be at the core of the way the NHS works. As the government says itself: if it worked for the privatised utility companies why shouldn’t it work for the NHS? Doesn’t that say it all? Well, not under my government. We’ll go back to the right principles. To the right values. Why should a hospital have to spend money on competition lawyers instead of patient care? We’ll stop that happening. We’ll stop the regulators from spending their time on free-market competition in the NHS. We’ll cut back on the consultancy costs caused by the Tories’ reorganisation. We’ll reduce the number of very senior managers who cost too much at a time when resources are so scarce. We’ll stop the threat of European competition law forcing the privatisation of services. And, friends, we’ll repeal their terrible NHS and Social Care Bill. This will save money. At least £100 million. And we’ll put all of this money straight back into improving GP care. Labour will have the right priorities. This is how we plan to improve the NHS. A comprehensive service based on the needs of the whole person. Prevention not just cure. Co-operation not privatisation. The NHS is so important to Britain."

Interestingly, The Guardian published their take on the speech at "18.17 BST", before the speech and the Q&A session were over, so it omitted Miliband's and Burnham's critical promise. The New Statesman's article admits to having been drafted over the previous weekend, but was not published until the actual day at 18.15. 

And that significant promise was also referenced in the Labour Party's second party political election broadcast from 13th May 2014, (3"20 - 3"29):
"We've got to put the right principles back at the heart of the NHS: care, and co-operation, and compassion; not privatisation and competition."

The Q&A session afterwards gave Andy Burnham an opportunity to pledge a public NHS core. I cannot find a video clip of his actual response, but, from memory, he basically stated that the core of the NHS had to be public service with a role for private companies only where they could add value to the over-all service. Ed Miliband concurred with Burnham's comments (see 2"00 - 2"15 of the video below).

According to Left Foot Forward:

"Andy Burnham has pledged to repeal the Health and Social Care Act if he becomes health secretary. This would undo the hospital closure clause, the wholesale privatisation, and reinstate the duty of the secretary of state to provide universal healthcare to the people who voted for them."

I cannot track down any coverage by the neo-liberal MSM of this stance against the privatisation of the NHS. I do not think it is because Labour has back-tracked. I suspect the dearth of reporting on this aspect is due this policy being popular and in-line with the electorate, which is far to the left of all main political parties, excepting the Greens.

I believe both Miliband and Burnham are honest men, honourable politicians; they will keep to their word I suspect.

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