I was recently appointed Shadow Minister for Public Health and I am looking forward to getting to work on my portfolio.
The Coalition’s White Paper released in July 2010 has outlined some big changes for the NHS. One of the biggest changes will be that health services will be available to be run by “any willing provider” rather than preferably being run by the NHS itself.
The Coalition believes this will lead to greater competition in the NHS and greater cooperation, but I am concerned that
allowing private companies to run NHS services will have a negative impact on the standard of care we receive.
Under Labour we had 89,000 more nurses, 44,000 more doctors and 100 new hospitals. But I am deeply concerned by the current trend towards allowing private companies to run health services. Profit-making companies may well find ways to perform a service more cheaply but the money saved does not get pumped back into the NHS to further improve services. Instead it goes straight into the pockets of the shareholders. And it is important to ask how private companies do things for less money. Very often it involves cutting corners – with staff wages and pensions, with substandard practice buildings or with the standard and variety of services.
The Coalition has also decided to get rid of Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and give budgets and greater responsibilities directly to GPs. I believe GPs already have a difficult enough job and do not believe that giving them further responsibilities will necessarily help them run their practices any more efficiently.
I am in no doubt that the NHS has been vastly improved over the last 12 years. I had my son in the Homerton Hospital in 1991. The doctors and nurses were lovely, but there was no doubt they were under pressure. Under a Labour government the buildings and the facilities at the Homerton have been improved out of all recognition. And it has an excellent record on issues like MRSA.
I want to see a quality care service available to all, no matter where they live, and I will be working hard with the Shadow Health team to ensure that we provide this.