Reinstating the ‘National’ in the NHS

It seems bizarre but true- the Secretary of State for Health has no statutory responsible for the NHS under current legislation. The Tory efforts to undermine the NHS go so far as to remove the ‘National’ part of the NHS acronym. 

This is not simply because the Tories and Jeremy Hunt in particular find it more convenient not to be held accountable for the growing problems of the NHS – although that is probably regarded by them as a happy spin-off.  The main Tory rationale is that undermining the NHS makes it more chaotic and more susceptible to de-nationalisation and privatisation. After all, this was the Government that promised to protect the NHS yet waiting times have soared. This is the Government that talked about putting clinicians and staff first, yet provoked the first all-out strike by junior doctors in the history of the NHS.

Therefore, it is extremely important to restore parliamentary accountability and in effect to renationalise the NHS. That is why Ten Minute Rule bill introduced by my colleague Margaret Greenwood MP is so important. The central proposition of the ‘NHS Reinstatement Bill’ is self-explanatory. It will have to effect of restoring parliamentary and Ministerial accountability for the NHS.

Of course, no-one wants yet another top-down reorganisation of the NHS. NHS professionals and staff that I speak to hold up their hands in horror at the prospect. The NHS has already had more than one reorganisation too many. But at the same time it is, or ought to be, a fundamental principle that the political oversight of any public service must itself be accountable and subject to scrutiny from the elected representatives of the population. This is no less true for the NHS, which is one of our most vital services, and which commands such large public resources.

Under the Tories, there has been top-down reorganisation, services have not been not protected, staff morale is at rock-bottom, and measured performance continues to deteriorate. This is the chaos they have introduced.

Labour stands for the opposite. Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour will have no truck with Tory plans for break-up and privatisation of the NHS. Instead, we will develop plans to strengthen and improve the NHS and oppose all damaging cuts. Reinstating the ‘National’ in the NHS is a part of that process.

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