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SKIDMORE CHRISChris Skidmore is the Member of Parliament for Kingswood and a Member of the Health and Education Select Committees.  
Follow Chris on Twitter.

Following
an extended period of silence Andy Burnham has finally stuck his head above the
parapet on twitter, repeating predictions he first made in 2011 that the NHS is
at death’s door. Only this time, apparently ‘this time we mean it’.

In
less than 140 characters, it seems that Burnham, still damaged from the Francis
report’s horrific conclusions into Labour’s tenure at the department, has torn
whatever remaining credibility he had to shreds. Last year I took a
retrospective look at the ridiculous claim he’d made when the Health and Social
Care Bill was going through parliament that there were only ‘72 hours’ to save
the NHS. Months later, with the Bill passed, it was clear his predictions of
death had been premature.

As
I noted ‘the political debate ended up becoming more about paranoid speculation
than the practical content of the bill itself, with Andy Burnham championing
the interests of the middle-managers rather than professionals and patients,
claiming that there was "72 hours to save the NHS". For someone who
in the final months of the Labour government was championing GP-led
commissioning, it was an unfortunate corner to be backed into. Months on, the
NHS remains alive and well’ (Conservative Home, 29 August 2012).


Now,
in this late hour with the Act about to take full effect, Andy Burnham has
extended his 72 hour deadline, set all the way back in 2011, to the 18th
of March 2013. On Twitter he has claimed, in a move which could be mistaken for
parody, that there are now just ‘two weeks to save the NHS (and this time we mean
it)’.

One
is left wondering why on earth Andy Burnham would make himself look foolish
again by repeating ridiculous claims that the NHS is on its deathbed? Could he
be trying to distract from the ongoing Mid Staffs scandal which he has been
keeping so quiet about?  As I wrote two weeks ago he was the health
minister who recommended the Trust be awarded the prized accolade of Foundation
Trust Status. More disturbingly he was then involved in keeping the true scale
of the tragedy quiet; a total of 81 requests for a full public enquiry being
ignored while he and Alan Johnson were in charge of the Department. In the two
years after the crisis was revealed and calls for a public enquiry were being
ignored ‘2,800 more people had died than would be expected [across the NHS].
One cannot escape the fact that had we not had to wait two years for a full
inquiry we could have learnt the lessons earlier; without question lives could
have been saved’ (Conservative Home, 24 February 2013).
Yet until now all he has offered is silence.

The tactic may now have changed but the strategy
remains the same. Andy Burnham will do anything to avoid facing up to the
appalling failure which happened under Labour’s watch and as a result of their
policies. The problem with all this shroud waving is that, like the boy who
cried wolf, no one will believe him.

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