Issue: NHS reform
Despite the plethora of commentators who contributed to the debate over
the Government's planned reform of the National Health Service and the
variety of criticism that emerged, an uneasy consensus emerged:
'Cautious welcome for move to cut surgery delays' (The Independent,
All agreed that the NHS has been grossly underfunded and that current
standards of healthcare, pressure on health workers and waiting times
for patients were unacceptable. The consensus broadly welcomed the use
of non-NHS resources to combat waiting lists and improve patient access
The scheme was not without its critics. The public health unions were
unhappy at the alleged betrayal of NHS workers, 'NHS union declares war
over BUPA deal' (The Independent, 5/12).
The British Medical Association, while welcoming the new measures as a
short-term solution to the current health crisis, questioned the
long-term cost to the NHS, when core investment was desperately
The opposition parties highlighted the undisclosed cost to the tax-payer
and alleged U-turns in Labour policy. Even some Labour backbenchers
The biggest failure of the Government's health reform announcement was
the apparently waning power of Number 10's spin machine. 'Spin doctors
failed to cure health concerns', headlined The Times (5/12).
The timing of the announcement proved crucial. Health unions took
affront at the news of new public-private-partnerships in healthcare
provision on the day set aside for the 'celebration of public
Similarly, the 'radical' reform package utilising non-NHS resources,
appeared to contradict the underlying message presented in Gordon
Brown's Pre-Budget Report, which highlighted so-called 'Old' Labour
values of supporting the NHS through a possible rise in taxation.
The result was further speculation of a rift between Tony Blair and
Gordon Brown and a drift away from ideological certainty of Labour
The Daily Telegraph highlighted the 'discord at the heart of
government ... confusion in the mind of new Labour' (7/12). A Labour
team that is supposed to be so expert at spin has tripped itself up over
an announcement of real substance.