The Telegraph and The Sun lead the criticism of David Cameron’s new NHS tactics this morning. Much more positive is The Guardian (perhaps encouraged by Polly Toynbee – who welcomed David Cameron’s new position on last night’s World Tonight programme).
The Telegraph: "Mr Cameron’s speech was disappointing because in it he ruled out a great many options for the future of healthcare in Britain that were, at the very least, worth considering. Conservatives were told that their new leader would not rush into formulating policies, but that the party under his command would take time to examine all the choices available. Instead, Mr Cameron shut down much of the debate yesterday by renouncing the "health passports" policy on which he fought last year’s election. This would have helped huge numbers of patients on NHS waiting lists by offering them the chance of going private for their operations. In the same speech, Mr Cameron rejected Margaret Thatcher’s idea of offering tax relief on medical insurance premiums."
"The Tory masterplan for saving the NHS is to maintain the status quo, with a minor adjustment or two. No promise of major reform. No mention of how the Tories would stop billions of Pounds of public money disappearing into the void. Quite the contrary, in fact. Tory plans to expand the NHS and make it more efficient will not be cheap, Cameron pledged — to reassure us that they take the matter seriously. Where will all this new money come from? Taxpayers are at the limit of their bank balances and their tolerance… Tony Blair has spent eight years promising NHS reform but all the extra money has achieved too little. It would be healthy for Britain if the Tories offered the choice of something different at the next election."
The Times: "Voters were understandably confused at the last election when the Tories promised, on the one hand, that they could improve the NHS “for all” and, on the other, suggested that some might want financial help to escape it. This was a policy that it did not take much effort to demonise. Those attacks were often gross distortions of the truth, but they exploited the sense that the Conservatives were ambivalent about equitable treatment."
The Guardian: "One of the attractions of Mr Cameron is that he realises that high levels of public welfare provision do indeed require high levels of taxation and no attempt to magic away expenditure by cutting so-called waste can cover the gap. Yesterday he pressed on, cancelling the Tories’ election promise to fund part of the cost of private medical care, in an intelligent speech to the King’s Fund that made it explicitly clear that he sees the NHS as more than an enabling service for independent healthcare providers to reach consumers. The speech was notable for what it did not contain: no routine bashing of health managers, no declaration that he would extend the market to community health programmes as the government proposed briefly last year and no wriggle room to introduce NHS funding through social insurance."
Stephen Pollard, The Times:
"In nailing his colours so firmly to an exclusively tax-funded NHS mast, Mr Cameron is making a huge mistake, both politically and for the good of the country. Labour’s policy of spending as much money as possible and fiddling with the system is a form of controlled experiment to discover if that is indeed all that is needed. The answer is now becoming clear: it isn’t. For years, those of us who have argued that it is the very notion of an entirely tax-funded system that is the real problem were dismissed as ideologues and lunatics. Now, with the evidence showing that the NHS cannot deliver even with massive funding, real reform has at last entered the realms of acceptable debate."