Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has written an article for The Guardian on support within the NHS for the plans to modernise the service.
There is mounting support within the NHS towards the government’s plans to modernise the service. The NHS is full of highly skilled, dedicated people. Parts of it provide world-leading levels of care. But too often, the system itself can act as a barrier to the kind of progress that doctors and nurses want for patients.
Last week, Denis Campbell said in this paper that few in the medical profession seem convinced of government plans. And yet 141 ‘shadow’ GP consortiums, covering 28 million people have already stepped forward to voluntarily wrest responsibility for local health services away from primary care trusts.
With every new day, more of the people who matter – local GPs, hospital doctors, community nurses – are embracing the opportunities presented by our plans. Howard Stoate, GP, former Labour MP and elected chair of Bexley’s shadow GP consortiums, said recently that, in his experience, GPs ‘reveal overwhelming enthusiasm for the chance to help shape services for the patients they see daily’.
Campbell’s other claim was that our plans will create a ‘democratic deficit’. He quoted the London Health Emergency campaign, which said that our plans would be a ‘disaster for local accountability’. If our plans were remotely similar to what it claims, it might have a point. But they are not.
The NHS will be legally obliged to involve patients, the public and local authorities when planning and implementing significant changes to local services. Foundation trusts will become more accountable to their governors and members. Who are these people? If you want, they can be you.
We will significantly extend local authority powers. For the first time, they will be able to scrutinise any NHS funded services, whoever provides them. We are already working with 25 councils to help them design their new health and wellbeing boards, which will bring unprecedented levels of local democratic accountability to the NHS. By April, we expect to be working with up to half of all local authorities.
The new consumer champion, HealthWatch England, part of the Care Quality Commission health regulator, will be able to quickly deal with any concerns about the quality of health and care services.
But beyond institutional accountability, genuine patient choice will bring a dramatic level of direct accountability to NHS providers.
A range of new quality standards will show just what excellent care for cancer, diabetes and over a hundred other conditions should look like. We will then publish just how good NHS services really are. If a hospital is not up to scratch, then patients can vote with their feet and go elsewhere. ‘No decision about me, without me’ is not empty rhetoric, it will be the normal experience in a renewed NHS. Where this sort of openness has already happened, its impact has been dramatic – death rates for cardiac surgery have halved in just five years.
As an ex-US supreme court judge once said: ‘Sunlight is the best disinfectant.’ We will shine this light more widely and brightly throughout the NHS.