Excellent news in Oldham East and Saddleworth. Gaining more than 42 percent of the vote with a majority of over 3500 Labour has demonstrated that we are coming back strongly. We are once again a force to be reckoned with.
Tellingly the Conservative vote collapsed, a mere 4500 votes, just under 13 percent, a very poor third indeed. As we may have expected the Liberal Democrats took 31.9 percent, unsurprising perhaps in this Liberal area.
Our new MP, Debbie Abrahams, is an expert on health and I very much hope she will put this to good use in the House of Commons. There is, indeed much to be done, not least in response to the Tory-led coalition’s recent public consultation document.
Martin Rathfelder, Director of the Socialist Health Association (SHA), recently panned Liberating the NHS: Greater choice and control saying Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s idea that free market competition will drive up standards and drive down prices was communicated in a duplicitous way.
The words ‘private’, “market” or “commercial” do not, in fact, appear in the 58-page document. Instead, commercial services are referred to as ‘any willing provider’ or as ‘independent providers’, obviously an attempt to stop people saying what they think about NHS privatisation. Companies owned by shareholders and hedge funds are not independent. They are accountable to owners who want to see profits.
The British Attitudes Survey has already found that the public are suspicious of private organisations running or providing public services. Less than a third of those surveyed favoured private companies providing NHS hospital services. It is sad when a public consultation document that claims to be ‘about giving people the information they need to exercise control’ is doing the opposite, for fear of the public saying what the Conservative-led government already knows they think.
The SHA have said they support choice for patients over treatment options and amongst existing (mostly NHS) providers, as indeed do I. Most patients want more choice about how they are treated. Fewer want a choice about where they are treated, and most money is spent on patients who are too ill to choose. The examples of choice in the document are choices which are already available to patients. The plan to fragment services so that every aspect of the patient pathway is exposed to competition is not apparent to the reader.
You may be interested to know that the Socialist Health Association, which helped to establish the NHS in 1948, has seen its membership shoot up 10% since the publication of Mr Lansley’s plans for the NHS, graphically illustrating that people do not trust the Tories with the NHS.