LibLink: Mark Pack – Where next for the Lib Dems on NHS reform?

Over on the MHP Communications blog, Lib Dem Voice’s Mark Pack has been pondering what will happen next on NHS reform:

It is becoming a fixture on the political calendar, that as spring approaches so too does another Liberal Democrat conference debate on health.  Cue headaches for Liberal Democrat party managers and nervousness among Conservatives.  What will the Liberal Democrat grassroots demand? How much will Cameron and Lansley be prepared to concede in response?…

At the moment, there are three different options for changes to the NHS Bill which different Liberal Democrats are pushing (I’ve yet to encountered anyone in the party who says, “No more changes, leave it as it is”).

There are those who want the Bill to be dropped, grouped around Winchester Liberal Democrats and their petition. Then there is Shirley Williams, who wants all of Part Three (on competition) of the Health and Social Care Bill to go, a view closely if not exactly mirrored by the influential Social Liberal Forum.  And then there are those who are pushing for further amendments, to significantly alter the Bill but short of the sort of dramatic and symbolic act of dropping Part Three in its entirety.

This is the view taken by many of the Liberal Democrat peers most involved in the Bill and many of those around the party’s leadership. Intensive discussions have been going on to come up with a list of further changes that can both deliver the substance (making the Bill workable and successful) and deliver the politics (making it clear that the Liberal Democrats have blocked key Conservative plans for the NHS).

To find out more about those questions, read Where next for the Lib Dems on NHS reform? in full.

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6 Comments

  • Tony Dawson 23rd Feb '12 - 5:32pm

    “Intensive discussions have been going on to come up with a list of further changes that can both deliver the substance (making the Bill workable and successful) and deliver the politics (making it clear that the Liberal Democrats have blocked key Conservative plans for the NHS).”

    These meanderings will not deliver the politics. If this Bill goes through ‘tweaked’ like that, it will still involve vast amounts of waste of money and pointless disruption on a relatively meaningless set of musical chairs.

  • Richard Dean 23rd Feb '12 - 6:21pm

    I wonder if a drawing board might be an interesting destination?

  • nigel quinton 23rd Feb '12 - 8:47pm

    The latest changes involve the removal of statutory powers from the proposed Healthwatch, removing any real bite to local accountability. What hope is there for getting a better bill via tweaks, if the tweaks are going in the wrong direction?

    It is way past time for our leadership to declare enough is enough, Lansley has failed to convince us of his case, and that if it is not possible to do as Baroness Williams proposes, ie to remove the whole chapter on Competition in the Bill, then the party should remove its support for the bill and for the Health Secretary. I think we could in these circumstances claim to have done our very best as coalition partners to have tried to steer the bill in a constructive direction, but that we have had to draw a line somewhere.

    Whether that is sufficient to gain significant credit form the electorate I do not know, but I firmly believe that if we allow the bill to progress the politics for us as a party will be disastrous. The recent Comres poll (http://tinyurl.com/7t7rw4z) offered us a glimpse:

    Which political party do you trust most with the NHS?
    Labour Party 37%
    Conservative Party 19%
    Liberal Democrats 8%
    Other 4%
    None of them 32%

  • This Bill has the potential to damage the LibDems far more than the Tories. In my opinion the LibDems should, as a minimum, insist that the ‘competition chapter’ be dropped. Anything less will bring a response from an angry electorate.

  • Richard Dean 23rd Feb '12 - 11:38pm

    The reason that Libdems aren’t trusted – on anything – is that we change our tune so often, and it usually looks like the reason has got nothing to do with doing the best for the electorate.

    So forget the politics, focus on what is best, and the politics will eventually be right.

  • @nigel quinton:

    The latest changes involve the removal of statutory powers from the proposed Healthwatch, ”

    This, then, should be the end of the Bill. The Healthwatch element was one of the few notionally ‘Lib Dem’ sourced parts which might have made one think about supporting something not in the Coalition agreement. I seriously worried about this when it was proposed to put Healthwatch under the useless Care Quality Commission, whose chief officer appears to have gone walkabout just before a damning report comes out. Now, if the powers are diminished further, it will be worse than a sop. This will be far less use than the old Community Health Councils ever were.

    The Lansley Bill is a ‘Norwegian Blue’ if ever there was one. Lib Dems should abandon it, and do so now.

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