Critics target PM’s reforms for the NHS

Julian Harris
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PRIME Minister David Cameron’s proposed health reforms were attacked by both sides yesterday, with pro-reform groups criticising his “diluted” statement and Labour calling the plans a “shambles”.

In a speech to doctors yesterday, the Prime Minister said the NHS would remain “much like what we have today.” Reforms will be “evolutionary, not revolutionary”, Cameron said.

“Let me make clear: there will be no privatisation,” he added.

But thinktank Reform responded sceptically: “David Cameron paid lip service to the principle of choice but in practice his speech defended the status quo in NHS provision.”

Reform had earlier published examples of successful private sector health provision in peer European countries.

“In Germany, a third of hospitals are run by for-profit organisations and a further third by not-for-profit organisations, all accessible to citizens through the national programme,” it argued.

In the Valencia region of Spain, private organisations provide services at a 25 per cent lower cost than the public sector, Reform said.

Real term health spending has doubled since 1999, the group said, while productivity has dipped by an average of 0.3 per cent each year.

“Compared to other systems in developed countries, the NHS lags behind in terms of mortality rates, cancer survival rates, stroke outcomes and heart disease,” added Mark Littlewood of the Institute for Economic Affairs, a market liberal thinktank.

“Cameron needs to reject the status quo and show the courage to embrace radical reform.”

Conversely, the coalition’s plans were attacked as “ideological” by the opposition Labour Party.

“David Cameron’s plans will fragment the NHS, with a free market free for all undermining the quality, integration and public accountability of NHS services,” said shadow health secretary John Healey. “He talks of his love for the NHS, but has broken his promise to protect the NHS.”