Cameron’s five pledges for NHS future
David Cameron will commit to “five guarantees” on the future of the National Health Service in a speech designed to reassure critics of his controversial health reforms.The Prime Minister will promise to keep waiting lists low, maintain spending, not to privatise the NHS, to keep care integrated and to remain committed to the “national” part of the health service.
Such is the concern in Downing Street at the damage the issue of NHS reform is causing the Government, that Mr Cameron will put his reputation on the line with a personal pledge to protect its core values. It represents his boldest attempt yet to assuage criticism from his Liberal Democrat Coalition partners and from many health professionals over the impact of the reforms.
In his speech, the Prime Minister will admit that he is willing to act on their concerns after listening to the “profession and patients” during a two-month exercise which was held after Mr Cameron called for a “pause” in the Health Bill’s passage.
His “five guarantees” are designed to show the Prime Minister is committed to the NHS, and “he is hearing what is being said”, according to one source. Mr Cameron’s promise on integrated care is designed to ensure patients receive continuity of treatment, without having to explain their condition from scratch each time to different doctors.
It also means that nurses and hospital professionals will retain a role in commissioning services, and that not everything is transferred to GPs.
His commitment to the “national” part of the NHS represents a pledge to keep it as a universal service, free at the point of use. But Mr Cameron will also say that “no change” is not an option.
He will echo the words of Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, who wrote in last week’s Daily Telegraph about the threat to the NHS if it does not reform. He warned of a £20 billion a year funding black hole without reform.
Despite ring fencing health spending, Mr Cameron is expected to make clear that NHS services will be threatened unless there is reform because of the rising costs of drugs and an increasing elderly population.
Mr Cameron is likely to say that the Coalition’s reforms will see the NHS working better. He will point out that in Europe there are health systems which work more effectively.
The speech comes as ministers prepare to rewrite much of the Health Bill. At present the plans involve abolishing two tiers of NHS management and handing control of a £60 billion-a-year budget to groups led by GPs, who can choose to buy treatment for patients from local state-run hospitals or private providers.
This week, the Royal College of Nursing is expected to renew its call for nurses to have a key role on the GP commissioning boards. Mr Lansley will not commit to such a plan until he has heard from the Future Forum, which is reporting back on possible changes to the Bill.
Tomorrow, Mr Lansley, who has been subject to rumours that he is about to resign or be sacked over the issue, faces MPs in the Commons. He will defend the reforms, although he is prepared to see them substantially watered down. However, Labour will seize on stories circulating that Cabinet colleagues had suggested he would not last the year in his post.
Downing Street polling has painted a stark picture of the problems Mr Cameron faces over the NHS and Mr Lansley’s presentation of the plans over the past 12 months is being blamed.
Last week Stephen Dorrell, who was health secretary in John Major’s government, added to speculation that he will replace Mr Lansley. Asked on BBC’s Question Time about whether he would do a better job, he said: “I am going to plead the Fifth Amendment.”
Tags: Andrew Lansley, Conservatives, David Cameron, Doctors, GPs, Health Direct, Health Professionals, National Health Service, NHS, nhs cash shortages, nhs waiting times, waiting times