Tory MP opens fire on Cameron’s NHS reforms

Sarah Wollaston warns that key parts of the reforms are “completely unrealistic” and “doomed to fail

The Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston has previously likened Andrew Lansley's NHS reforms to throwing a "grenade" into the health service. Today, she launches a similarly explosive device at David Cameron.

In an op-ed piece for the Sunday Telegraph, Wollaston, who was a GP until last May, calls for dramatic changes to the government's Health Bill to "regain public and professional confidence". Along the way, she provides Ed Miliband with plenty of ammunition for future PMQs.

Wollaston describes the reforms as a "Trojan horse", warns that important elements of the reorganisation are "completely unrealistic" and "doomed to fail", and says that the NHS could be changed "beyond recognition". One should add that she rebuts Cameron's rhetoric more effectively than many on the opposite side of the House. She writes:

At Prime Minister's Questions last week David Cameron said: "We are not reorganising the bureaucracy of the NHS, we are abolishing the bureaucracy of the NHS."

That is part of the problem.

It is one thing to rapidly dismantle the entire middle layer of NHS management but it is completely unrealistic to assume that this vast organisation can be managed by a commissioning board in London with nothing in between it and several hundred inexperienced commissioning consortia.

Taking aim at the centrepiece of the reforms, Wollaston argues that GPs are neither willing nor able to manage £80bn of the £100bn NHS budget. David Cameron may dismiss the British Medical Association, which has called for the government to withdraw its bill, as just another "trade union", but he will struggle to ignore the criticisms of one of his own MPs.

Cameron is too committed to these reforms personally to attempt a forests-style U-turn. Lansley will be spared the Spelman treatment. But following the decision to abandon price competition, I'd wager that the coalition will look again at the "any willing provider" rule and at the decision to place the NHS under EU competition law for the first time (something Cameron seemed only vaguely aware of at PMQs).

Lansley's ideological blueprint may not survive contact with reality.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

Donald Trump vs Barack Obama: How the inauguration speeches compared

We compared the two presidents on trade, foreign affairs and climate change – so you (really, really) don't have to.

After watching Donald Trump's inaugural address, what better way to get rid of the last few dregs of hope than by comparing what he said with Barack Obama's address from 2009? 

Both thanked the previous President, with Trump calling the Obamas "magnificent", and pledged to reform Washington, but the comparison ended there. 

Here is what each of them said: 

On American jobs

Obama:

The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift.  And we will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.  We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.  We'll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost.  We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.  And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

Trump:

For many decades we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind.

Obama had a plan for growth. Trump just blames the rest of the world...

On global warming

Obama:

With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

Trump:

On the Middle East:

Obama:

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. 

Trump:

We will re-enforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.

On “greatness”

Obama:

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned.

Trump:

America will start winning again, winning like never before.

 

On trade

Obama:

This is the journey we continue today.  We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth.  Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began.  Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week, or last month, or last year.  Our capacity remains undiminished.  

Trump:

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.

Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never ever let you down.

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland