George Eustice: Vested interests threaten NHS bill

Andrew Lansley could be forgiven for feeling a little bit let down by health professionals and, in particular, the British Medical Association.

George Eustice: Vested interests threaten NHS bill
George Eustice: Vested interests threaten NHS bill

In opposition, he made engagement with health professionals his priority, spending years meeting GPs to discuss what they wanted to change about the NHS. Now that he is doing what they said they wanted, commercial vested interests have taken over and organisations like the BMA are backsliding.

I always remember being told by a former government adviser in the Blair era that the Conservatives would be making a mistake if they thought doctors would be allies in reforming the NHS. He cautioned that they acted like any other vested interest and had stood in the way of all the reforms the last government tried to introduce, despite being given huge increases in salary.

He appears to have been proven right. A few weeks ago, Hamish Meldrum, the head of the BMA, was threatening to go on strike over doctors' pensions. The BMA's main concern with the Health and Social Care Bill is that it will introduce accountability within the NHS and potentially expose failing GPs.

Communicating policy on the NHS is notoriously difficult because it is such a complex organisation. There are so many acronyms that health is discussed in a jargon language that no-one outside it can be expected to understand. To get back on the front foot, the Government needs to return to clear messages about what it is trying to achieve on NHS reform, and David Cameron made a good start last weekend.

There also needs to more discipline around comms. The latest problem has been caused by anonymous briefings by ministers and aides who were just nattering to journalists rather than thinking about the message they wanted to convey. As a result, the story has been about Lansley rather than the NHS. There needs to be absolute loyalty and secrecy within the PM's inner circle. The types of people who covet the attention of journalists are a liability and must be removed.

George Eustice is Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth and a former press secretary to David Cameron.

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