One of the more interesting consequences of the Government’s outsourcing of their NHS reform policy is that those now under attack for wanting change are not the Government but the leaders of the Future Forum.
Today’s Times contains an article arguing for greater choice in the NHS. For me it makes a better common sense argument for choice than anything that the Government has tried to stitch together in the last 12 months.
Because he is more important in arguing for reform than the Secretary of State, because he is providing the argument for NHS reform it is now Stephen Bubb who comes under attack by those who want to protect the status quo.
(Although given the rap against Andrew Lansley I can’t see something similar happening with Stephen Bubb)
On Sunday the Observer carried a substantial article disclosing the fact that because Stephen Bubb was chair of a charity that secured finance for charities he had an interest in the expanding the third sector.
Too right. Two of the other chairs worked in the NHS and the fourth is a local government Chief Executive. Given these clear clashes of interest I think that means that everybody is not allowed to recommend anything.
On the other hand it’s perfectly alright for policy to be made by organisations with an interest in maintaining the status quo.
But beyond the general nature of the attack the specific nature of the politics of the attack are worth examining.
Most of the article was a set of quotes from John Pugh a Liberal Democrat MP who is ‘the Party’s spokesman on health’.
His attack demonstrated how far the politics of attacking NHS reform has detached politics from its normal base.
His main attack on was that,
“The real problem though is Sir Stephen’s enthusiasm for better access to NHS work for the charitable sector” Observer 12/06/2011 (online version here)
So here we have it. The “real problem” for the Liberal Democrats is people being enthusiastic about charities doing more work for the NHS. Let’s just remind ourselves for a moment here that it is the Liberal Democrats of which we speak.
Flicking through their manifesto of 13 months ago I read quite a lot of enthusiasm for the growth of the charitable sector. On occasions I have heard Liberal democrats claim Sir William Beveridge – specifically because he was in favour of civil society organisations.
So I look forward to,
- a Liberal Democrat policy to nationalise Macmillan Cancer care (who I am shocked to reveal already provide services to the NHS).
- a Liberal Democrat policy of taking over the British Heart Foundation and the nurses that they have the cheek to provide for NHS patients, and
- the nationalisation of all hospices.
The problem with having a weak Government arguing for reform is that anyone can attack change without expecting any argument in return.
But my main takeaway from this post is that we must expect attacks on the chairs of the Future Forum. These will become a torrent if the new narrative for the Reforms begins to bite.