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

×

Peter Hain

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

June 16, 2007
4 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?

It is absolutely astonishing that we have allowed the Tories to establish a lead on health. We need to raise our game.

As a first step, we need a moratorium on structural change and reorganisation in the NHS. The health service doesn’t need to be in a state of permanent revolution in order to deliver. It’s time to let the health service settle down and time to let NHS staff get on with the job.

Secondly, we need to set out a clear and unambiguous vision for the role and limits of private sector provision within the NHS. As a very basic general principle, I believe public services should be publicly provided unless there’s a very good reason why not. For instance, in Northern Ireland, I used the private sector to clear a massive waiting list backlog and that was absolutely the right thing to do because it delivered such huge improvements for patients. But there should be a general presumption for public provision.

Finally, we need a new deal with NHS staff. For example, the two-tier workforce in the NHS is a major cause of insecurity among staff in the health service. That is why, in Northern Ireland, I exempted catering and cleaning staff from PFI contracts in the NHS, because I believe that, while there is a role for private finance, it should not be at the expense of the terms and conditions of workers.

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

NHS staff feel that the health service is in a state of permanent revolution, with wave after wave of reorganisation. NHS staff aren’t opposed to reform, but they don’t feel we’ve made the case. First and foremost, NHS staff want to get on with treating patients.

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?

As I explained above, I believe public services should be publicly provided unless there’s a very good reason why not. In Northern Ireland, I used the private sector to clear a massive waiting list backlog, which we brought down from as long as four years to a matter of weeks.

There is a role for the private sector in delivering health services, but where we have failed is being clearer about what the scope and limits of private sector involvement should be. There should be a general presumption for public provision, but with a role for the private sector when we can show clearly there is benefit for patients.

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?

We need to be pragmatic and we need to be prepared to admit when we have made mistakes.

There was a clear case for introducing payment by results – namely, that patients benefit if hospitals that perform well and treat more patients are able to do so without being financially penalised.

But clearly, we need to learn from experience, and only proceed with such reforms if the evidence shows that they are working.

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 remain free at the point of use, and I am opposed to any extension of charges for NHS services.

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

Yes. Patients want to be in control of their own treatment.

Choice must not be a dirty word for the left, and we need to nail the Tory lie that choice equates to marketisation or vouchers.

We must make the case for choice for patients within a publicly funded NHS, free at the point of use.

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.

The unrepentent Sarah Champion has no place in the modern Labour Party
Sarah Champion has defended her comments on race and sexual abuse. Her views have no place in the modern politics, writes Gavin Lewis

Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism

Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists

Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson

As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win

The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution

Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.

‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition

#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana

Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth

Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company

You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild

Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University

This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback

Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein

Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up

Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement

‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic

Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden

There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright