How Lansley re-politicised the NHS and made life harder for Tories


11:01 am - February 13th 2012

by Richard Blogger    


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Various commentators have pointed out how the NHS has re-toxified the Tory brand. But Andrew Lansley has done something worse – he has re-politicised the NHS.

One of the most significant achievements of New Labour was the creation of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). The fag-end of the Major government was dogged by postcode lottery scandals, and it was so long ago that people seem to forget what a huge scandal it was.

A day didn’t pass without something in the Press about someone complaining that they could not get treatment in their area that was available in another area.

NICE solved that issue, and it did so in a way that pleased everyone. First, clinicians were pleased because NICE is evidence based and all its decisions are backed up by peer-reviewed research. Second, patients were pleased because NICE is authoritative, and its decisions carry a lot of weight.

Lansley realised that if there was a Conservative government, and they enacted his plans for the NHS, there would be lots of Tory seats under threat from candidates running on the NHS.

Lansley had to create a NICE for all of the NHS. This was the reason behind the creation of the NHS Commissioning Board and it was the reason behind the abrogation of the Secretary of State duties.

The problem is, rather than de-politicing the NHS Lansley has manage to re-politicise it. The overwhelming opposition of bodies like the RCGP or FPH is not due to a handful of troublemakers, the usual suspects.

This opposition is from clinicians who until recently were largely apolitical. The Bill, Lansley’s heavy handed implementation and Cameron’s downright lies about NHS outcomes have persuaded many numbers of clinicians – doctors, nurses and other clinical staff – into active opposition.

This is bad for the Conservatives because at the next election these clinicians won’t forget how a Conservative-Liberal Democrat government had duped and bullied them.

Of course, it will also mean that an incoming Labour government will have to tread carefully because there is now a phalanx of clinicians ready to scrutinise their policies. I think that this will be a good thing because it will mean that Labour will have to create a much better health policy.

In a short space of time, rather than de-politicising the NHS, Lansley has managed to re-politicise it. This will have repercussions whose effects will be felt for many years.

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About the author
Richard is a regular contributor. He blogs more frequently at Conservative Policies Dissected.
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Reader comments


The NHS is and always has been a deeply politicised issue. Late stage Blair had the foundation hospital fandango. Brown had the merging and closing of A&E departments. Even when the money flowed in the illusive good times, the NHS was always considered under-funded, and every reform considered ‘privatisation’.

The question is whether this was a sensible fight to have – politically it’s not looking like it at the moment.

“The question is whether this was a sensible fight to have – politically it’s not looking like it at the moment.”

Hence the mounting calls to sack Lansley – a classic case of shooting the messenger while passing on the same message in all essentials.

patients were pleased because NICE is authoritative

They tended to be pleased if NICE authorised the treatment they needed. Are you sure you don’t mean that rationing medical treatment is authoritarian?

This is bad for the Conservatives because at the next election these clinicians won’t forget how a Conservative-Liberal Democrat government had duped and bullied them.

And lets also hope they don’t forget it was a Labour government that agreed to massively overpay them…….

4. the a&e charge nurse

[3] “Are you sure you don’t mean that rationing medical treatment is authoritarian?”, only if you take authoritarian to mean high cost intervention with negligible benefits.

Incidentally Prof Black says “A review of a much wider range of data than was previously available suggests substantial improvements in the quality of (NHS) health care”.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16984450

“Official figures do not reflect the real improvements made in the NHS in England, according to a paper in the Lancet medical journal. It says a myth has grown up that the health service became less productive as funding increased” – same link.

We didn’t vote for this: it was not in the manifesto, since it would have led to electoral failure. Yep – that will politicise people.


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