The Tories’ NHS problem is not with their policy – they obviously have recognised that no government can be elected that threatens the basic principles of the NHS. No, their policies contain straightforward themes of public service reform, but their problem is caused by the contradiction between their policies and their politics.
Their policy says: ‘The NHS is too important to be allowed to be exploited by politicians for partisan gain…. To ensure that political interference does not result in the distortion of clinical priorities and the denial of autonomy to frontline NHS clinicians, we will establish an NHS board…’
This is a clear policy pledge to remove all political parties from the operation of the NHS.
However, their politics up and down the country are very different from this. David Cameron has said – presumably as a politician and not as a member of NHS frontline staff – that he will stop changes to hospital services even when they have been clinically approved. It is difficult to see what this is except politics. In Enfield the Conservative PPC is pictured with David Cameron pledging support for the local campaign to keep their A&E and consultant-led maternity services open.
The clinically-led independent panel, set up to review improvements, agreed over a year ago that it is in the best interests of patients to make these changes.
Conservative politics is to ignore clinical advice.
Yet their policy is to remove themselves – as politicians – from such decisions.
Andrew Lansley commits himself to stopping changes to maternity services in Bury by saying: ‘I will have the power to do that within days if we are elected.’ But this is not in fact true because he will be elected on a policy of removing that power from himself.
The Conservatives call themselves the party of the NHS. Who do we believe: the Conservative politics or the Conservative policy?
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
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