Labour leader Ed Miliband challenged David Cameron at last week’s prime minister’s question time over the critical editorial on NHS reform published jointly by HSJ, the BMJ and Nursing Times.
In response Mr Cameron quoted Tony Blair, saying: “It is an important lesson in the progress of reform that when change is proposed it is announced as a disaster, it proceeds with vast opposition, it is unpopular… opposition is inevitable, but it’s barely unbeatable”.
Brave words – but ones with little substance.
Paul Corrigan was one of the leading architects of New Labour’s health reforms. He wrote this week: “If the Health Bill is passed it will in fact move reform backwards.” He concluded the legislation would not “bring about the change that it was intended to”.
As readers know, HSJ is not a fan of the way the government has gone about restructuring the NHS. But we retain a strong belief in the need to challenge the service to respond to changing demands and pressures. This requires reform – well judged, sensibly paced, sometimes radical, appropriate reform. Mr Corrigan’s comments echo HSJ’s editorial of last April, in which we wrote that the government’s execution of its NHS plans “could set reform back a decade – a far more toxic legacy than even the damage that the changes are wreaking in the system at present”.
Mr Cameron cannot claim to be a hardened reformer after ordering a belated “pause” to listen to concerns, and shovelling scores of amendments into the already overstuffed piece of legislation in order to calm opponents.
During the 1988 US presidential election, the Republican vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle regularly compared himself to one of America’s most iconic heads of state. His Democratic rival famously cut him down to size by declaring: “You’re no Jack Kennedy.”
When it comes to NHS reform, David Cameron is no Tony Blair.