David Cameron has defended his government’s health reforms at prime minister’s question time from the criticisms set out in HSJ’s joint leader with Nursing Times and the BMJ.
Amid stormy scenes in the House of Commons, the leader of the opposition directly quoted the editorial written by the titles’ respective editors, Alastair McLellan, Jenni Middleton and Fiona Godlee.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “This week the British Medical Journal, Health Service Journal and Nursing Times published a joint editorial that said, and I quote, the prime minister’s reorganisation has ‘destabilised and damaged one of this country’s greatest achievements – a system that embeds social justice and has delivered widespread public satisfaction public support and value for money.
“’We must make sure that nothing like this ever happens again’.”
Mr Miliband added: “Why does the prime minister think he has so comprehensively lost the medical profession’s trust?”
In response, the prime minister said: “There are tens of thousands of general practitioners up and down the country who are implementing our reforms because they want to see decisions made by doctors, not bureaucrats.
“They want to see health and social care brought together and they want to put the patient in the driving seat.”
Mr Cameron told Mr Miliband: “Look at what is happening in the health service - waiting times are down, infection rates are down and the number of people in mixed sex wards – that we put up with for 13 years under Labour – is down by 94 per cent.”
The prime minister also criticised Labour’s policy of saying his government’s increase in NHS resources was irresponsible.
But Mr Miliband went on to criticise the prime minister for being “out of touch”, listing organisations including the Royal College of Midwives and the British Medical Association, which were against the bill.
“He knows in his heart of hearts this bill is a disaster,” he said of the prime minister. “He has a choice – he can carry on regardless or he can listen to the public and the professions. Will he now do the right thing, and drop this unwanted bill?”
In response, Mr Cameron said: “If you are trying to bring into public service, choice, competition, transparency, proper results and publication of results, you will always find there will be objections.
“The question is whether it’s going to improve patient care and the running of the health service.”
He went on to quote former prime minister 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. It comes about and within a short space of time it’s as if it’s always been so.
“The lesson is instructive. If you think a change is right, go with it – the opposition is inevitable but it’s rarely unbeatable.”