17th February 2015

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Health-Chat with Roy Lilley 

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP Chair Health Select Committee

11th March - King's Fund 5.30.  Details here.  Some tickets left.

It does matter
News and Comment from Roy Lilley

Tory MP and ex-select committee chair, Stephen Dorrell is the only man who walks the corridors of power and leaves no footprint. He is quiet, thoughtful and clever. Also, hugely influential but probably, right now, demob happy.


He is soon to leave Parliament, after 36 years. He is off to make his fortune in the city. Why shouldn't he? I'd rather have someone of Dorrell's standing and understanding, advising the advisors, than a lot of others.


He has given an interesting interview in the Telegraph. Well, I think it is interesting. Knowing Stephen Dorrell I am assuming it is interesting. The piece has been written by Rosa Prince, the Torygraph's Assistant Political Editor. To be honest I can't make head-nor-tale of half of it.


Ms Prince reports that Dorrell is calling for; 'Care for the elderly (to) become like the "pub and restaurant trade"... You'll have to read it for yourself.


If you can fathom this out; "What's the basis on which the growth of the pub and restaurant sector is the celebrated service sector and the growth of care of the elderly is a national overhead?"... you've got a bigger brain-box than me.


Either Dorrell has lost his marbles, Ms Prince has lost her note book or the sub-editor has lost a paragraph or two?


Anyway, with greater clarity Dorrell dives into the issue of politics and trust. He says the Tories should take the NHS battle to the Labour Party:


"Clearly it's part of the folk memory... the tribal memory of British politics, that Labour regards the NHS as home territory for them.


"Of all the votes that Conservative Party whips have imposed on the party, the vote against the establishment of the NHS has cost us more in long term political damage than any other vote we have cast."


He's right. In plain English; no one trusts the Tories on the NHS. In 1948, in war-torn, exhausted Britain, the thought that an austerity government would commit 4% of GDP to the experiment of socialising (indeed nationalising) healthcare was beyond the vision of the Tories. More, it was beyond their ken, their DNA and their wildest dreams. Or nightmare... depending of your hue of blue.


Dorrell suggests that David Cameron should expose the "myth" that he wanted to privatise the NHS. Dorrell is right and the Tories need to get a move on. The problem is, no one knows what Cameron thinks about the NHS.


Cameron has boxed himself into a really awkward corner. He told us, at the last election, there would be no shake up of the NHS. Once elected; he pressed on with seismic changes. Why?


There are three explanations: Cameron genuinely did not know what Lansley planned, or; he did know and kept quiet, or; during the wheeling and dealing with the Lib-Dems, to form a coalition, he lost grip on NHS policy.


Is Cameron a fool, a liar or just has no grip? Whatever the answer, it is not the basis of 'Trust me on the NHS'.


For this election Cameron has identified 6 policy priorities in which the NHS is in the long grass; inextricably linked to the fortunes of the economy. A strong economy ='s a strong NHS. That's all.


If privatisation is the worry, the road to it was defined by Labour's Alan Milburn; Monitor, markets, contracting, AQP. The Tories have not demurred. Working with the private sector is part of the every-day for the NHS. Where it all goes wrong is; when they screw-up, the NHS has to sweep-up.


According to polling giants, Ipsos MORI, the NHS is a top-of-the-list election issue for most voters. Not having a credible, clear, practical, doable health policy is barmy. The Tories need to voluntarily hold their own feet to the fire to find a health policy, otherwise the electorate will assume they are up to the same tricks as last time and fear the worst.


Side-lining the NHS, ignoring it, looks suspicious and insufferably arrogant. If that is the plan then Tory election strategist Linctus Crossbody is just plain wrong. I hope he has Dignitas on his speed dial.


Dorrell is right. The NHS matters, not just to the rump of 120,000 Tory Party members but to the 1.4m people who work in it.  Plus; everyone who will fall off their bikes today, have depressing test results today, have a baby today, wake up in hospital today, feel the weight of the day is too much for them, or be there when their granny slips away, today.


It does matter. 


'What is the point of a select committee' come and join me in conversation with Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, chair of the Health Select Committee.

 Kings Fund 11th March - details here. 



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