Cameron’s policy headaches….

It is easy to ridicule the Conservatives for being ‘policy-lite’ but when they do announce something substantive it is actually very clear why they avoid saying too much. Let’s look at the much-vaunted health announcements yesterday as reported in The Times; Cameron ‘guaranteed’ £1.5 billion worth of savings from cutting ‘bureaucracy’. However, in the next breath he promised the creation of a new ‘independent’ body to run health and a ‘re branded’ almost Orwellian sounding ‘Department for Public Health’. Oh and ‘targets’ will be replaced by ‘outcomes’ in a ‘radical’ policy shift that threatens to give semantic juggling masquerading as an idea a bad name.

So, Cameron’s plan to cut bureaucracy and bring-in ‘patient power’ is to create a new bureaucracy which, seemingly, is accountable to nobody but itself.  Worse still the very real possibility is that such a body will not put patient but commercial interests first; an ideological agenda clearly demonstrated in Cameron’s commitment to ‘competition between providers’. While finding these savings Cameron also promises ‘real-term growth’ in health spending and astonishingly manages to keep a straight-face. Cameron’s agenda for ‘paient power’ actually seems to mean merely increasing access to information;

Under the Tories patients would also have the right to much more information about their local hospitals, which the party says will make doctors accountable to patients rather than to ministers. Hospitals would publish online the success rates of everything from heart transplants to cancer survival rates.

“When patients not only have the power to choose where they get treated, but also the information to make an informed choice, then hospitals and GPs who don’t provide good care will have to raise their game,” Mr Cameron said.

So, no increase in actual control at all then? In fact, patients can look forward to the shifting of control from democratically elected representatives to a new ‘independent’ body. As a representative of the Patients Association, Katherine Murphy, says nothing can really replace the accountability of the ballot box. Andrew Lansley, writing for Conservative Home, insists that Cameron’s health plans demonstrate committment to the founding ideals of the NHS;

Our approach to public services is clear.   Real choice and control for patients.  Competition between providers. Payment according to the quality of care. Professionals accountable to patients for results.

Lansley has seemingly forgotten the committment to a consistent standard of care regardless of wallet size. Indeed, he seems to have fundamentally re-written the founding principles and invented his own. What a tangle the Conservatives seem to get in when actual concrete policy comes to light….lest we forget the small matter of a certain European Treaty.

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About darrellgoodliffe

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