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1. The government has put massive investment into the NHS, yet polls suggest the Tories are now more trusted to run it. What would be the first three steps that you would like to see to improve the NHS?
It hurts to hear of polling results like those, but Labour should not take the bait of the Cameron PR campaign. If we continue to focus on the task at hand, we will compare favourably to a Party that has been bereft of ideas to date.
As Deputy Leader, I want to break down the barriers between the grassroots and government. Too many people feel excluded from government at a time when we should be welcoming their contributions.
With the NHS in particular, we will only be able to improve it effectively if the experiences and ideas of staff and patients can really have an input on policy. Labour legislated the transformation of the NHS, but the NHS professionals carried it out. They will carry out future changes too, so they deserve a greater say in what those changes should be. With dentistry, for example, we must take on board the expertise of employees and the public to plan lasting improvements.
As a start, I have already advocated an increase in representation of the public sector unions on the National Policy Forum, and there is plenty more that we can do to reform our policy-making structure. At the same time, we must make sure that we honour the commitments that we were re-elected on in 2005, and explain our changes better to the public too. If we keep to our promise to reduce health inequalities further and involve the public and professionals in our changes, we will regain that trust.
2. Why do you think health reforms have produced such a strong reaction from NHS staff?
Trust debts have undoubtedly put an unwanted additional strain on hard-working NHS staff, and the government is eager to avoid a recurrence of this. I also think that the reaction is an inevitable and understandable response to reform. The pace of change has been dizzying and frustrating for some, and I can understand why.
Aneurin Bevan once said “I would rather be kept alive in the efficient if cold altruism of a large hospital than expire in a gush of warm sympathy in a small one”. Compared to our new hospital buildings, our new flexible care arrangements and community-based services have sometimes been associated more with warm sympathy than efficient cold altruism. In reality, all of these changes are fundamentally important. Labour was right not to sit on ideas that are now improving public health, but we must take greater care to explain our changes and involve NHS employees more in them.
3. Should extensive private sector involvement in the health service be continued or curtailed and why? Do you favour the expansion of private involvement into primary care, with companies running GP surgeries and PCT services being outsourced?
I for one have learned a lot about the role that private contractors can and can’t play during the last 10 years. The Party has a responsibility to monitor the success of its changes, and if outsourced services do not perform, we must act. I know that many people have closely associated the trust debt difficulties with the outsourcing of services, and Labour must take care to treat the root of the problems.
Our electoral success is a testament to our winning combination of landmark public sector improvements and prudence. This must continue. Private sector innovation and competition can be beneficial, but the social conscience of the public sector should be preserved too. Outsourced or not, the British public want GP surgeries and PCT services that are ultimately effective and efficient. We must give priority to those end goals, rather than the public / private commitments that consigned us to years of infighting in opposition rather than progress in power.
4. Aside from private sector involvement, reforms have aimed to create a quasi-market with NHS hospitals competing with each other and earning their ‘payments by results’. Has this been wise and should it continue to be the direction of travel?
Labour has been undoubtedly successful in raising standards, and the connection between performance and payments has been a key part of that success. However, there is a risk that government can end up only improving the healthcare standards that it can measure. Targets can also have adverse effects unless they are well researched and in-tune with the service that they aim to improve. For these reasons, I think that the government should liase closely with the NHS professionals on this issue.
5. There has been talk recently of charges for health services – Charles Clarke said the NHS should provide core services for free but demand a fee for peripheral treatments. What would your policy be on NHS charges?
The NHS must be free at the point of use wherever fiscally possible.
6. Does the public really value choice in the NHS?
I think that the public do value choice at the moment, largely because the standard of service in the NHS is so high, but we need to do more if choice is to be an effective tool to raise those standards further. We must ensure that people know how to use choice to their benefit – particularly those in areas where health inequalities are most prevalent.
Choice will only help to raise standards in the NHS if it is on offer to everyone, not just the well informed. We must also keep in mind the fact that choice will only be valued if a good choice is on offer. The quality of healthcare per se is most important to the public, so the government must maintain its concentration on healthcare standards primarily.
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook