The veteran Labour war horse Peter Hain got it absolutely right.
Appearing on the Andrew Marr show (22 January) one expected him to promote his new autobiography ‘Outside In’ (Biteback Publishing: 2012). It is a brilliant personal account of a remarkable man and is highly recommended.
Mr. Hain, however, hardly mentioned his tome. What he did say was that he thought that the proposed NHS reforms could lose the Conservative Party the next election. That is likely to be in May 2015.
A much earlier threat lies with Britain’s enterprising businesses. There is virtually no Government support for the sector and the likely course of events is that it will take the inevitable cyclical return of bull market conditions to improve things.
However, it is now that a visionary development strategy is required. It is likely that the Government’s attention will be elsewhere.
The Health Bill is about to go through the House of Lords after a year of wrangling. The Lib-dems are in such disarray that their opposition has virtually disappeared. The medical colleges huff and puff and write letters to ‘The Times’ but they are all so wealthy (thanks to Tony Blair) that there is no real fight.
Andrew Lansley is privatising the NHS. He is handing £90bn of the annual £110bn budget to groups of doctors who add a few nurses to make it look good. His original budget of £1.8bn for closing 151 Primary Care Trusts (“PCTs”) is now past £3bn and will, in my opinion, end up nearer £5bn. Health services are being wrecked by ludicrous cost saving measures by organisations that are in disarray.
Andrew Lansley has carried out no research to evidence the ability of commissioning groups to manage these sizable budgets as well as practise as doctors. There are already a number of well documented resignations as doctors find the conflicts too great. There is a stream of newspaper articles reporting on declining services, longer waiting lists, massive hospital budget deficits and a shortage of medical cover in out-of-hours needs.
The NHS reforms may, as Peter Hain predicted, lose the Conservatives the next election. In the short term the potential collapse of essential services will be solved by the greater use of private health companies. Costs will escalate and the national budget deficit will increase still further.
And Enterprise Britain will struggle grimly on.