Jeremy Hunt waits to deliver a speech at the Evelina London Children's Hospital on July 5, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.
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The Tories can't avoid the blame for hospitals being put in special measures

The emergency action is a damning indictment of the pressures the government has created on the frontline.

Today, Jeremy Hunt shockingly tried to claim credit for the number of hospitals placed in special measures. He spoke as if these problems on the frontline were nothing to do with him – and that his role was simply to call them out. He placed 11 trusts in special measures last year following a review by Sir Bruce Keogh and five more have gone into special measures since.

The truth is that this Tory-led government has caused huge problems in the NHS. And the fact that so many hospitals have had to be placed in special measures is a damning indictment of the pressures the government has created on the frontline – and for which they have never apologised.

In Spring 2013, three years after David Cameron began his vast, top-down reorganisation of the NHS, Bruce Keogh inspected 14 hospital trusts and found worrying care problems. Some of these hospitals had been under pressure for some time. But far from getting to grips with the problems, the Tory-led government made matters far, far worse.

First, they turned the NHS upside down with an unnecessary reorganisation that sucked £3bn out of patient care. When David Cameron was forcing his health Bill through, NHS leaders warned the reorganisation was putting services at risk. But he refused to listen and ploughed on regardless.

Second, in the first three years of the Parliament, Cameron presided over the loss of thousands of NHS nurses. Unsurprisingly, the Keogh Review said nursing shortages were a key cause of the problems they found – yet the government has never taken responsibility for this. The fact that the NHS has now had to scramble to recruit more nurses is an admission the Government made a monumental error letting numbers fall so far in the first place. Equally worrying are the cuts we have seen to nurse training places – 10,000 fewer trained over the last four years – which is only storing up problems for the future.

Astonishingly, Jeremy Hunt talked about the need for transparency in the NHS. But the government still refuses to comply with the Information Commissioner’s ruling that they publish the risk assessment for their NHS reorganisation – despite the fact that Robert Francis, who led the inquiry into Mid-Staffordshire hospital trust, called for these assessments to be made public. Were the government warned their reorganisation would lead to the haemorrhaging of nurses and widespread care problems? Were they warned their reorganisation would hit A&E? While they continue to cover things up, I guess we’ll never know.

The vast majority of NHS staff now say that David Cameron’s reorganisation has harmed patient care. Incredibly, just 3 per cent say it has improved patient care. A recent survey for the Nursing Times found the majority of nurses saying their ward was dangerously understaffed, and more nurses said that safety has worse over the last year than better. The sad truth is that by turning the NHS upside down with a damaging reorganisation and causing a crisis in A&E, the government has made care problems more likely, not less.

I’m proud it was the last Labour government that introduced independent regulation of healthcare, and we support tough inspections of hospitals. That shouldn’t stop us asking how we can prevent care problems occurring in the first place, though – and scrutinising the damage this government has done to patient care.

Jamie Reed is Labour MP for Copeland.

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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.