Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Harriet Harman

Red Pepper / Keep Our NHS Public survey of Labour deputy leadership candidates views on the NHS

June 16, 2007
5 min read

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?

The idea that the Tories can be trusted with the NHS is absurd. Whatever they are saying is designed to achieve one thing — to get them into power. If that happens we would see how little they really care about the NHS. For all the undoubted importance of issues such as hospital waiting times, our overriding health policy priority has to be to tackle the wide disparity in health outcomes that still exists in Britain today between people from different regions and social backgrounds.

We know these inequalities have economic costs both to the NHS itself and in terms of the number of working days lost. So, it makes economic sense to tackle them – but the most powerful reason for putting this issue at the heart of our party’s policy agenda is the social and human cost of these inequalities.

Consider for example the gap in birth weight between babies born to families in the lowest and highest incomes groups, which is perhaps the most glaring example of health inequality that we face. Babies born underweight are statistically far more likely to die before their first birthday. They are also much more likely to develop behavioural problems, have a low IQ, and suffer from chronic ill health later in life. Moreover, there is strong likelihood that they themselves will then grow up to have babies of their own, who are also of a low birth weight; thus perpetuating the cycle of inequality.

In the last ten years we have done a great deal to address health inequalities. Maternal health and well being for example is an issue that receives more attention in Whitehall today than it has ever done in the past. We now need to address the human cost of these inequalities. As a party and a Government we need to become more vocal on the issue of health inequalities. We need to highlight their pernicious effect on society and to try to put them at the forefront of the debate on health, rather than on the margins.

2. Why do you think health reforms have produced such a strong reaction from NHS staff?

Whatever the reasons for the hostility shown by some – although certainly not all NHS staff — we do need to demonstrate a new willingness to listen and take staff with us as we carry out future reforms.

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?

With power and resources now being devolved from Whitehall to local health care providers, we need to strengthen the way in which these local organisations are held accountable to the public. The freedom of PCTs for example to commission services and to set health care priorities to suit the needs of the local population, is one that I welcome, but these decisions shouldn’t be taken in a political vacuum. Each community should be able to hold their local trust to account for the decisions that they take. There is a strong case for having directly elected officials on each primary care trust board, making local decision-making more open and transparent, and helping to restore public trust in NHS management

We need to be careful that in addressing this democratic deficit in the NHS, we do not undermine the progress that has been made since 1997 in ensuring that all patients, wherever they live, receive a consistent level of care in key clinical areas based on national targets. We would also need to make sure that in deciding what their priorities should be, trusts do not sideline some of the strategically important, but less politically sensitive services such as public health and health promotion activities.

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?

Outside providers have undoubtedly helped the NHS to cut waiting times for elective surgery and reduce pressure on NHS hospitals. It is clear, however, that independent sector treatment centres have not always proved to be more efficient or innovative that NHS-run elective centres. When we consider bringing in outside agencies, we must make sure we do not jeopardise one of the important developments in the NHS – the very welcome shift towards greater multi-disciplinary working. Fundamentally the NHS must remain a public service within the public sector.

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?

I’m against the extension of charges. They can be very expensive and bureaucratic to collect.

6. Does the public really value choice in the NHS?

Yes, if it means the service is shaped for their benefit but what really matters is getting the best possible treatment in the shortest possible time.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

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