NHS Plan Gives No
Guarantee of Right to Health Care
The NHS Plan: A Plan for Investment, A Plan for Reform
was unveiled by the Department of Health yesterday with a statement by
Tony Blair in the House of Commons.
The NHS Plan is being trumpeted as the most fundamental and
far-reaching reform of the health service since it was set up in 1948.
"This is a Plan for investment in the NHS with sustained increases in
funding. This is a Plan for reform with far reaching changes across the NHS.
The purpose and vision of this NHS Plan is to give the people of Britain a
health service fit for the 21st century: a health service designed around the
The point about increasing funding in the NHS is so that
its future may be safeguarded. What this means is that the direction must be
changed from one that increasingly is a fiefdom of capitalist profits for the
monopolies and financiers, not to mention the drug companies, to a health
service where health care for all is recognised as a right, and is available to
all human beings in society without distinction at the highest level society
What the Health Secretary, Alan Milburn, said of the Plan
is, "For the first time the Government has faced up to the breadth and
depth of problems in the NHS and has addressed them all in turn." Here
immediately we see the government wriggling and turning, that it has evaded its
responsibilities in the past, but intends to face up to them in the future. The
question which must be asked is: does the NHS Plan support this declaration of
the government? The question may be put another way. Do the resources which the
Plan promises do more than reverse the cuts, the "breadth and depth of
problems in the NHS", and increase investments in the NHS so that the
claims of the people to proper health care will be met and the health staff and
professionals burden and "culture of blame" will be ended?
The Plan recognises that the NHS "falls short of the
standards patients expect and staff want to provide". Besides attributing
the failings of the health service in part to underfunding, the Plan asserts
that there are systematic problems of:
- a lack of national standards
- old-fashioned demarcations between staff and barriers between services
- a lack of clear incentives and levers to improve performance
- over-centralisation and disempowered patients.
This is the sum total of the "systematic problems"
that this "most far-reaching" plan addresses. The government sums up
this approach in saying it is "patient-centred". Coming after the
farce of the "consultation" of the plan that never was, people in the
community as well as health workers would be right to question how far this
could be the case.
As with the White Paper on Health and the 1999 Health Act,
one is lost to find a coherent approach to the problems of the health service.
Such a coherence can only be given in a positive sense by basing the
services future on the peoples guaranteed right to health care.