NHS

Halt the march towards a US healthcare system.

Writing for The Times ‘The Red Box’, 23 January 2017.

…. The game being played between the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, over money is like the rattle of two drying peas in the same pod; they both want to bring to England the costly US healthcare system.

…. Our English politicians, whether Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat, have set a course heading for the costly US system, though only very few ever acknowledge this. They do not seem to realise that the STPs (changes of the Sustainability and Transformation Plan) coming soon are, in private, planning considerable hospital bed closures at a time when the Royal College of Surgeons has said that we cannot manage with less beds. They also plan on reducing services across the board.

These cuts are to finance a costly, predominantly US-designed external market healthcare system that our politicians have been introducing since 2002. They have done this with the support of newspapers who are headlining every NHS scandal. This includes, shame on them, the hand-wringing Guardian. Very few in England are daring enough to admit that the direction of travel is towards a US healthcare system and Red Box should call them out.

….

Why not, in the next budget speech, make all those over-65s who continue to work pay national insurance? It would raise, I am told, over £1 billion. I worked in business for 12 years past the age of 65 and could easily have paid national insurance. My generation were allowed to set mortgages and any related endowment insurance schemes against income tax. It was far easier to become a homeowner at an earlier age then. The elderly still working in England are now, I suspect, ready to pay more to return the NHS in England to the sustainable planned model that they have relied on for most of their life.

Download the full article here: HaltMarchtoUS4

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“For the first time in 14 years we have the leader of the Labour Party unequivocally committing the party to reversing the legislation which has created in England a broken down, market-based healthcare system

Statement issued by the Rt Hon Lord Owen following Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement that he would ‘remove’ private provision within the NHS as part of plans to renationalise the health service.

“For the first time in 14 years we have the leader of the Labour Party today unequivocally committing the party to reversing the legislation which has created in England a broken down, market-based healthcare system: one which is unrecognisable from that which was introduced in 1948 and which still exists in the rest of the UK.

“Surely now the whole Labour movement can combine together, left, right and centre to make this official party policy at this year’s autumn conference.”

Background:

“Jeremy Corbyn’s statement means that the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 and the Health and Social Care Act 2012 under these proposals are, in effect, rejected and will be replaced. This surely must end all Labour’s troubled equivocation over a marketised NHS and provide a political route on which party members and supporters can campaign together. Already in Scotland this is in effect government policy.

“The Campaign for the NHS Reinstatement Bill has been campaigning on a cross party basis for this outcome through successive Private Member’s Bills in both the Lords and the Commons ever since I presented the first National Health Service (Amended Duties and Powers) Bill [HL] in January 2013.

“It is a triumph for learning together, with cross party grassroots organisations working closely with health and legal professionals with persistence and dedication.”

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Lord Owen moves amendment to Queen’s speech in House of Lords to protect the NHS from the effects of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Read the full text here: HLQueen’sSpeechDebate23.5.16

“..the new right to regulate does not provide sufficient protection to the UK Government to ensure that no future government or Parliament will have its ability to increase the public sector provision of services limited..”

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We in the cross-party Vote Leave Campaign, however, share a common democratic commitment. We will restore legal powers and democratic control of the NHS to voters in the UK. If we vote Leave – we will be able to protect our NHS from EU interference.

Lord Owen speaking at the launch of the Vote Leave ‘Save Our NHS’ campaign, Wednesday 6 April 2016

Excerpts: The EU/Eurozone from 1992, in marked contrast to the old European Community of 1975, creeps into every nook and cranny of our life. It is now becoming entrenched in the NHS and this June we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get it out.

We in the cross-party Vote Leave Campaign, however, share a common democratic commitment. We will restore legal powers and democratic control of the NHS to voters in the UK. If we vote Leave – we will be able to protect our NHS from EU interference.

In 2006 the Labour government commissioned a legal opinion on the effect of EU legislation on the NHS. The Health Department’s then commercial director, Ken Anderson, who had been involved with independent surgical treatment centres (ISTCs), told the Financial Times in January 2007: ‘My personal conviction is that once you open up NHS services to competition, the ability to shut that down or call it back passes out of your hands. At some point European law will take over and prevail … In my opinion, we are at that stage now.’

As if recognising the truth of this interpretation on 13 December 2007, with not much publicity, the Department of Health issued a document titled Principles and Rules for Cooperation and Competition, running through which are EU legal positions which have become the law that operates in the UK.

The advisory Co-operation and Competition Panel was reported in the Financial Times to have been applying its interpretation of the law since 2009 – by advising on NHS mergers and handling complaints about anti-competitive practices by hospitals and primary care trusts[1]. In truth, since 2002 the Labour government, the Coalition government and now the Conservative government have accepted an EU market in health.

… We are agreed in Vote Leave, that whatever our political views on the present marketization of the NHS, decisions on the NHS should for the future be for the UK Parliament and devolved administrations to take. It should not be for the European Commission nor the European Parliament.

[1] Financial Times, 27 and 29 July 2011.

Read the full text here: VoteLeaveNHSLaunch – Lord Owen[1]

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Lord Owen comments on the the NHS Foundation Trust deficit story

“At what stage will the stand alone Foundation Hospital advocates – who have dominated health policy  for 13 years – admit they were wrong? We have to return to comprehensive care provided across each geographical area, as spelt out in the NHS Bill.

“This Bill, now before the House of Commons in the name of Caroline Lucas is supported by Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, other Labour MPs, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and John Pugh, Liberal Democrat MP. That progressive alliance in Parliament must now be supported by all the Royal Colleges and anyone committed to evidence based medicine. The evidence is now before us all: Foundation Hospitals have been a disaster. The Health and Social Care Act must be changed and the NHS Bill is the way to do it.”

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Lord Owen hopes cooperation over Caroline Lucas’s NHS Bill could lead to a wider progressive alliance amongst the political parties.

The Campaign for the Reinstatement Bill has, in essence, been adopted in this new Parliament by Caroline Lucas in her Private Member’s NHS Bill which has received a First Reading. The importance of this Bill is that prior to the Election it was supported by Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Green MPs and now this newly tabled Bill continues to be supported by that same grouping though slightly different names.

This, in my view, provides the basis for a progressive alliance in UK politics to emerge.  It is best for them to focus first on the health service in the UK as a building block for quickly moving on to a constitutional convention which should be established on the understanding that if the Conservatives were ready to involve themselves that would be far better but that in the absence of such cooperation others should get on with it.  I recognise for the SNP and Labour in Scotland that will be a difficult dialogue and therefore I believe it would be wiser to establish it on a UK basis.   Such an alliance might move then into austerity and economic and social policy.  It will have to sort out a proportional system for the Westminster elections and agree it before a general election.  This is not an academic issue: it is a question for political horse trading when they have got used to the concept of working together to form a government in 2020.  If they have any sense they will also enter into negotiations over standing down from specific constituencies in order to help each other beat the first past the post system.

This may be all too ambitious. But starting on the health service gives substance and structure to a cooperative project so that by the time the Second Reading of Caroline Lucas’s Bill comes before the House of Commons on 11 March 2016 I would hope there is a readiness of the SNP MPs to stay on in London to ensure 100 MPs are present to enforce a closure debate when, as is inevitable, Conservatives try to talk the Bill out.  I also hope that then in Committee, in the light of changes in the NHS in England and elsewhere in the UK, the Bill can be amended and that this process will continue throughout the Parliament.  It will not of course become law but that same Bill could be reintroduced if someone wished, having been lucky in Private Member’s ballot, in every session until the Election, all the time adjusting and reflecting changes and new thinking.

 

 

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The coming election will decide the future of the NHS, and with it, the United Kingdom.

The end of the NHS as we have known and understood it in England will take place before 2020 if whichever party or parties that win the 2015 general election does not change the 2012 NHS legislation ….around that moment the issue of Scottish independence will be back on the political agenda with a vengeance. The two are linked in more ways than have yet been fully recognised.

The New Statesman (online), 21 April 2015. 

Read the article here: The coming election

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Lord Owen warns of the lessons to be learnt from the Hinchingbrooke Hospital scandal.

Article, published in The Guardian 19 January 2015

Hinchingbrooke has been a heavy defeat for an ideological solution that can work well in manufacturing or retailing, but runs into problems in healthcare.

Advocates of a market-led, partly privatised NHS for England have been saying for years that “what matters is what works”, dismissing those who believe in the 1948 NHS concept as ideological, old-fashioned or plain wrong.

Now that their flagship, Hinchingbrooke hospital, the only privately run NHS hospital in the country, is losing its private contractor, Circle, one might have expected the zealots to acknowledge the flawed nature of their policy? Not a bit of it. The arch priest of markets everywhere, the Economist, merely records that it “is just one of dozens in financial trouble”.

To read the full article please click here: Hinchingbrooke.

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