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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?
The government have massively increased investment in the NHS, and it is absurd that we are now in the situation of the Tories being more trusted than a Labour government. Firstly, I would like to see a stop to the constant churn of structural change and its destabilising effects. Secondly, we need to rebuild relationships with staff and finally get staff and users working together to design improved services. Third – we need a moratorium on private sector involvement in the NHS so a full review can be held.
2. Why do you think health reforms have produced such a strong reaction from NHS staff?
Staff feel there have been a series of restructures imposed on them, which they have not had the opportunity to contribute to. The recent Healthcare Commission survey showed a downward trend in morale and job satisfaction from NHS staff; quality services depend upon the staff delivering those services, and they have to be involved alongside users in designing services and improving 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 believe there should be a moratorium on private sector involvement in the NHS; we are travelling down a dangerous road of increased fragmentation with core NHS services in private sector hands.
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?
There is no doubt that the introduction of such a system, and the way it was introduced, has had a hugely destabilising effect on local health economies.
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 do not believe we want to travel down the road of eroding free health care, it is a fundamental principle of the NHS.
6. Does the public really value choice in the NHS?
I believe the public value high quality, local and tailored care – that is something different to simply valuing choice over who delivers health care.