The NHS reforms are the weak link in Cameron’s chain…
David Cameron is staking alot on his package of public service reforms. This is especially true in the case of the NHS which was one issue Cameron focused on as he tried to convince a weary electorate that the Conservatives were properly ‘detoxified’ and therefore fit to govern (when the environment had fallen out of fashion). One thing you can say positively about Cameron is that he is reasonably good at polishing his performances. However, today his sure-footedness seemed to desert him as first he launched an ill-tempered broadside against critics of reform – urging them to ‘grow-up’. He then left himself wide open to an easy hit from Labour:
In an interview, Mr Cameron said that patients should not have to settle for “second rate” healthcare. He corrected himself, fearing that health professionals would take a very dim view of his assessment.
Labour seized on the slip with John Healey, the shadow health secretary, saying that improvements in the NHS were clear for everyone to see.
He said: “David Cameron also seems to see the NHS as second rate when everybody else has seen big improvements by Labour in recent years and public satisfaction is now at an all time high. This is an insult to millions of NHS staff.
Cameron’s clumsiness tends to suggest he is all too painfully aware of what is it at stake and is somewhat nervous. Health is one of those areas where people neither trust nor particularly want the market. Sick people don’t want ‘choice’; they want to be made better and that’s pretty much where their interest ends as long as some basic standard is met. Most people don’t have the resources of the likes of Cameron and he patently doesn’t understand the NHS and what makes it popular.
In short, its one of those issues where people are far more predisposed, by natural inclination, to support left-wing sentiments against the right. People are much more naturally inured to the rhetorical charms of concepts like ‘choice’ and the usual verbal hocus-pocus that accompanies marketisation. This makes it a tricky hand to play for Cameron and also one where we can break him. Of course, as is becoming usual Labour is making its stand on a bold platform of scoring pithy points from cheap shots. So, we get cat-calling about ‘insults’ to create the illusion of difference where none really exists, in substance.
‘Bureaucracy’ is constantly rounded on as the bane of the NHS. However, the the problems caused by the mixed-market which sees inordinate amounts of money spent on drugs on equipment which, were these companies to be nationalised, would be provided free of charge. So, a credible start to reforming and ‘modernising’ health care provision, reducing NHS costs, would be the nationalisation of the entire healthcare sector. Of course, this should be done under the auspices of the democratic control of workers within the various companies (with provision in the case of hospitals for input from local communities). Democracy will thus shrink the bureaucracy without damaging the provision of healthcare for those who depend on the service it provides. I guess though this is not ‘on the table’. In the recent flu epidemic we have already seen the price people pay for the governments light touch ‘big society’ sell-off. People paid for its negligence with their lives. Sadly, I don’t think they will be the last….