The Health and Social Care Bill evokes a lot of controversy and dare I say myths, some of which I would like to go through with you here.
Myth 1: The NHS is being cut.
Fact: We are increasing the NHS budget above inflation year-after year – something which Labour opposes. Any savings we make from cost efficiencies will be ploughed straight back into patient care.
Myth 2: The NHS doesn’t need any change.
Fact: Yes it does. Someone in this country is twice as likely to die from a heart attack as someone in France. Survival rates for some cancers are amongst the worst in the OECD. Premature mortality rates from respiratory disease are worse than the European average. The number of managers in the NHS doubled under Labour, and productivity went down year-on-year.
Myth 3: These changes represent the privatisation of the NHS.
Fact: We will never privatise the NHS. The NHS will always be there for everyone who needs it, funded from general taxation, and based on need and not ability to pay.
Myth 4: Private hospitals will take over the NHS.
Fact: We want patients to be able to choose to be treated wherever they want to be – whether it’s an NHS hospital, or one in the voluntary or private sectors. We believe more choice and more competition will lead to benefits for patients.
Myth 5: GP consortia will be forced to use the private sector.
Fact: It will be up to GP consortia to decide their own arrangements.
Myth 6 : The policy of price competition in the NHS will lead to a “race to the bottom” on quality.
Fact: Patients won’t know how much a service costs, because NHS services are free at the point of use. Patients will therefore choose to be treated at the highest-quality provider. There will be competition on quality, not price.
Myth 7: Private providers will just cherry-pick the easiest cases, undercutting the NHS.
Fact: The less complex the procedure, the less someone – including in the private sector – will be paid.
Myth 8: The NHS will cease to be a single, national organisation.
Fact: The NHS has never been a single, national organisation. It has always been made up of hundreds and thousands of different organisations and individuals – many of them from the independent sector – providing care free at the point of use and based on need and not ability to pay. This will not change.
Myth 9: These changes will cost £3 billion.
Fact: The one-off cost of our changes will be £1.4 billion, of which £1 billion are the costs associated with reducing the size of the NHS bureaucracy – a reduction that is needed to honour both parties’ promises to reduce the cost of administration in the NHS. As a result, the changes will pay for themselves within two years, and go on to deliver £5 billion of savings over this Parliament.
Myth 10: Waiting times will increase.
Fact: We are not removing any guarantees which benefit patients. That’s why we’ve retained the cancer waiting time targets.
Myth 11: These changes will lead to a postcode lottery.
Fact: Clear national standards of care will be set, so patients can be confident that – wherever they are treated – NHS care will be of the same high standard, wherever they live.
Myth 12: Doctors and nurses will be turned into accountants.
Fact: Frontline doctors and nurses will not be turned into accountants. They will bring clinical leadership into the NHS. They will be given all the support they need to help them take decisions in the best interests of their patients.
Myth 13: These plans will result in the closure of hospitals.
Fact: There are no plans to close hospitals. Indeed, our plans will prevent the kind of top-down closures Labour made without reference to local communities.
Myth 14: GPs do not want to do the job you are asking them to do.
Fact: In just 12 weeks, GPs covering over half of the country have come together in groups to lead our modernisation. They have come forward voluntarily, more than two years before the formal handover of responsibility takes place in April 2013.This demonstrates the enthusiasm among frontline GPs to take advantage of the opportunities our modernisation plans offer.
Myth 15: These changes are a revolution.
Fact: Our proposals are an evolution of plans which governments of all parties have introduced over the past twenty years.
Myth 16: This is a huge, top-down reorganisation.
Fact: We’re moving away from top-down organisation and control. We’re removing targets that tie up NHS staff in red tape and we’re getting politicians out of decision-making. We’re removing whole tiers of management that sit above doctors and nurses and instead giving them the power to decide what’s best for their patients and we’re giving patients more choice and control.
Myth 17: No-one has been consulted on these plans.
Fact: We received over 6,000 responses to the consultation on our plans, and we have modified our plans accordingly.
Myth 18: Patients with rare conditions will suffer, because GPs don’t know enough about them.
Fact: Like now, the care of people with rare conditions won’t be commissioned by GPs, but by national experts in these conditions.
Myth 19: No-one will be in charge.
Fact: Ministers will remain fully accountable to Parliament for the way in which the NHS’s money is spent. But local services will be shaped to meet local needs through GP practices working together, rather than imposed by a Primary Care Trust.
In conclusion I will say, that our ambition is simple – to deliver care for patients which is the best of anywhere in the world. But to do this, we need to modernise and soon.