I’M PLEASED at what came out of the Lib Dem conference in Sheffield. While I am pleased that the health reforms will give us the more democratic NHS that I’ve campaigned for, I was not happy with allowing private hospitals to undercut NHS ones.
The primary care trusts have often made unpopular and bad decisions without even asking local people what they think, which is wrong. Labour’s PCT in Manchester closed the Burnage walk-in-centre and temporarily closed the Withington Community Hospital without consulting anybody.
So it’s right that local people and local councillors should get a bigger say on how our health needs are met as proposed, rather than unelected officials making decisions behind closed doors.
But I’ve been clear that I am not happy with everything in the Health Bill. I do not want public and private hospitals competing on price. That might see a race for the bottom with undercutting on price. My concerns are shared by many Lib Dems, which is why the Lib Dem conference voted at conference for the proposals to be changed.
I welcome the fact that following this vote, the Deputy Prime Minister has promised to look again at the reforms. He will make sure that there’s no competition on price or ‘cherry-picking’ of the easiest health work to impact upon our healthcare.
The Labour privatisations of parts of our NHS were wrong. Privatisation is where you create a private monopoly. Labour did that by handing over hospitals lock, stock and barrel to PFI contractors. They also gave GP surgeries to private firms that local people were forced to use, like it or not.
I’ve nothing against the private sector. The Christie does some private work to bring in more money for the NHS. But I believe that people should always have a good public sector choice open to them too. Lib Dems are working to make sure that this happens.
Lib Dem ministers are also going to make the democratising of our NHS go even further, spelling out how local people and councillors will make sure that GPs do a good job.
I also spoke on the BBC Radio 4 programme "Week In Westminster" on the issue and you can listen to it below (Starts 7mins 30)
Week In Westminster 19/03/11- source iPlayer