UK government plans to reverse Cameron NHS reforms

[06-02-2021 03:25 PM]

Ammon News - Boris Johnson is planning to reverse controversial reforms of the NHS in England, a leaked document reveals.

The changes would see a reduced role for the private sector, while a system of contracts being put out to tender, with health groups sometimes competing against each other, would be scrapped.

The draft policy paper also says the health secretary would take more direct control over NHS England.

It would sweep away reforms introduced by David Cameron's government in 2012.

The 2012 Health and Social Care Act, brought in by the coalition government led by then-Conservative Prime Minister Mr Cameron, alongside his Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, put NHS England at arms length from the secretary of state.

It gave more control over budgets to GPs and other clinicians, while greater competition with the private sector was encouraged.

However, the changes were controversial and attracted criticism from opposition MPs and professional bodies representing doctors, nurses and other NHS workers.

The government's draft White Paper says there will be "enhanced powers of direction for the government" to "ensure that decision makers overseeing the health system at a national level are effectively held to account".

The document was published by health news website Health Policy Insight.

Instead of a system which required competitive tendering for contracts - sometimes involving private companies - the paper says the NHS and local authorities will be left to run services and told to collaborate with each other.

What is described as needless bureaucracy standing in the way of NHS organisations will be removed under the plans.

There will also be more focus on GPs, hospitals and social care services working together to improve patient care.

Government sources told the BBC the move was an "evolution, not revolution".

However, Richard Murray, chief executive of health charity The King's Fund, said the proposals amounted to "major reform", giving ministers more direct control of the NHS and public health.

But he raised concerns around the timing of such a move.

"While many might agree with the ultimate objective of more integrated health and care services, there are clear risks in distracting the service when the NHS is still battling Covid-19 and in the midst of the biggest vaccination programme in our history," Mr Murray added.

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of health policy think tank the Nuffield Trust, said the reforms should allow GPs, hospitals, community services and social care to "work better and more effectively together" in the longer term.

He told the BBC he hoped "the changes in the wiring behind the dashboard shouldn't be too noticeable to patients and when it is, it will be in the longer term because the results they're getting are better".

But he warned against over-optimism, saying structural change could help but was not "the magic ingredient" to better delivery of care.

Meanwhile, former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt welcomed the proposed changes.

He told BBC Breakfast: "Last year was the first year in history where, across the world, there were more over-65s than under-fives, so we are all having to deal with this big change in our health provision of the growth in older people and what that means is you need a lot more joined up care."

He added: "The structures need to be improved to make that possible and I think that's what these reforms are intended to do, so I think they could be very positive."

However, speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Hunt warned against the emergence of "cosy local monopolies" and said the reforms needed to include "a proper accountability mechanism" - similar to Ofsted inspecting schools, he added.

"How we make sure that the NHS continues to be held accountable for these huge sums of public money is something that, I am sure, people will want to ask."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said changes were being considered to drive forward the integration of health and care services, and details would be set out in due course.


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