It doesn’t happen often, but this week the intricacies of health policy have made it into the tabloids.
The News of the World gave Andy Burnham and Andrew Lansley the opportunity to go “head to head” answering questions from readers. Topics included whether NHS targets are a good idea or distort priorities, whether the NHS “should pay for lifesaving drugs regardless of the cost” and whether GPs should earn six figure salaries “when they work fewer hours and access is worse than ever”.
Mr Burnham was described as “football crazy” and accused of “destroying the bold, radical reforms” made by Tony Blair
The answers were predictable enough, what was more notable was the level of detail - and animosity - in an accompanying piece by the paper’s “insider in the corridors of power” Fraser Nelson (aka the editor of The Spectator).
News of the World readers will no doubt be grateful they can now enter into the “preferred provider” debate with the best of them, but if they were hoping for clues as to which way to vote, they will be disappointed. In answer to his own question about which man would make the best health secretary, Mr Nelson was firm in his conclusion: “neither of them”.
Mr Burnham was described as “football crazy” and accused of “destroying the bold, radical reforms” made by Tony Blair; Mr Lansley was labelled “deathly dull” and criticised for his plans to “lazily hand the keys over to the people causing the problem” (bureaucrats, of course) via an independent NHS board.
But it has not been all bad news in the paper this week. The Guardian reported the chief medical officer’s warning that the postal strike could delay letters from GPs inviting patients for their swine flu vaccinations. Perhaps it will spur GPs to join most other 21st century businesses and email them instead? Bring on the revolution.