Keeping up the momentum that has characterised the post-Blackpool Tories [we have also had announcements on English votes for English laws, a new emphasis on immigration and withdrawal from talks on party political funding] Andrew Lansley publishes a draft bill to make the NHS in England independent. [Message to CCHQ: Nothing on conservatives.com about this as I write. Time and time again the party website is behind the news].
You can read about the proposals at the BBC, Sky, Telegraph, FT and Guardian. Andrew Lansley, who has been rising steadily in ConservativeHome’s shadow cabinet league table, was also on the Today programme just after 7.30am.
Here are some of the Tories’ key proposals:
- Two-thirds of the NHS’ budget would be put in GPs’ hands according to The Guardian. GPs would decide which services would by provided at their own surgeries and which would be purchased from NHS hospitals and from private providers.
- An NHS Constitution would define the level of treatment that patients could expect and would include the idea that healthcare would be free at the point of use.
- A new independent health board that would take over the existing Whitehall Department’s responsibilities and so free the system from "political tinkering". Its responsibilities would include the allocation of resources, the setting of national standards of care and the issuing of commissioning guidelines.
- The Health Secretary would then become the Public Health Secretary – focused on issues like smoking and obesity.
- There would be a new body – HealthWatch – which would handle patients’ complaints about treatment.
Labour Health minister Ben Bradshaw MP immediately rejected Tory overtures to help them implement the draft bill that could be introduced by the Opposition or an individual MP:
"It is simply wrong to suggest that taxpayers should invest £90bn in the NHS but there should be no political accountability for how that money is spent. Under Tory plans, ministers would be powerless to intervene where a hospital is failing."
Birmingham University’s Professor Chris Ham, the former head of the Department of Health’s strategy unit, told the FT that while the "details differed considerably, the thrust of the Conservatives’ bill would have produced similar results as Blairite reforms".