Combining the biggest financial challenge in the NHS with the biggest re-organisation is a “catastrophic error of judgment”, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said yesterday as he attacked the government’s health reforms.
Bringing an Opposition day motion on the government’s record on the NHS, Mr Burnham accused the prime minister and the government of breaking three key coalition promises in seeking to push through their controversial Health and Social Care Bill.
Mr Burnham said: “People will remember only too well, running up to the general election, the then leader of the opposition’s ostentatious shows of affection for the NHS. His airbrushed face on the posters and three very personal promises: real terms increases in every year in this Parliament; no A&E and maternity closures; no top-down re-organisation of the NHS.
“He protested his love for the NHS, and at photocall after photocall on the wards, routinely wore his heart on his sleeve. He was protesting a little too much and today we expose the hollowness of his promises.”
Mr Burnham said it was “irresponsible” to promise increases to the NHS on a much reduced public spending envelope, claiming: “In their first year in office they delivered a real terms cut to the NHS.”
He accused David Cameron of sounding “out of touch”, when, Mr Burnham claimed, hospitals were making severe cuts to services, closing wards, reducing A&E hours, making nurses redundant and cutting training places.
He said the “sheer audacity” of the government’s claims on hospital closures was “breathtaking”, adding: “The proposed moratorium and opposition to closures was purely political, it was designed to help the Conservatives win votes in marginal seats.”
Referring to the no top-down NHS re-organisation pledge, Mr Burnham said: “The abandonment of this pledge is the prime minister’s biggest single mistake in office and if he ploughs on he will ultimately pay a heavy price for it. That’s because it is a catastrophic error of judgment to combine the biggest ever financial challenge in the NHS with the biggest ever reorganisation.”
Addressing health secretary Andrew Lansley in the Commons, Mr Burnham claimed his bill was “unravelling before his eyes” and that coalition health policy was “in chaos”.