Wednesday, 19 October 2011

When it comes to health, Reading Labour would always rather play politics

Last night at full Council Cllr Bet Tickner, Labour Lead Councillor Health tabled the following motion:

“This Council notes that:

  • Through the Health and Social Care Bill, the Government is currently pushing through the biggest and most disruptive reorganisation in the history of the NHS, at a cost of £2bn.
  • The Bill removes the fundamental responsibility of the Secretary of State for Health to provide a health service free at the point of need. 
  •  Despite the “listening exercise” over this last summer the bill will still put decisions about the future of the NHS in the hands of EU competition lawyers and allow private healthcare companies to make major inroads into NHS provision.
  • The Bill is designed to produce a postcode lottery of care, with potentially two commissioning consortia operating within Reading Borough, and would allow NHS trusts to treat as many private patients as they wish, so long waiting times would be back for very many Reading patients.
  • The messy reorganisation set out in the bill is not only costly, but will cause massive anxiety among all dedicated NHS staff over a prolonged period, in addition to the job losses, cuts in pay and projected costs in pensions which are being implemented at the Royal Berkshire Hospital and elsewhere in the NHS locally.
  • The Bill creates more quangos with unclear roles, meaning more money spent on bureaucracy, not less.
  • The NHS was cut in real terms by £800m in 2010-11, despite the Government’s promise to give the NHS a real rise in funding every year of this Parliament, and to stop top-down reorganisations of the NHS.
In view of the detrimental affect of the above on Reading residents, this Council resolves:
  • To write directly to the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary urging them to scrap the Health and Social Care Bill.
  • To urge Members of the House of Lords who oppose this Bill to seek to amend radically those provisions which directly threaten the very foundations of the NHS.
We voted against this motion. Below is the speech I gave in response.
'It is with dismay that once again Labour councillors are using valuable time in the Council Chamber to make a party political broadcast.

How does this debate help the people of Reading we are supposed to represent?

If we are to believe Labour genuinely care about our NHS

Where were the motions attacking the previous Labour government’s marketization of the health service – which enabled private providers to be paid more than those from the public sector,

Where were the motions attacking the target-driven culture which grew up under Labour and which led to failings in basic care such Mid Staffordshire?

Where were the motions attacking the £20 billion-pound of taxpayers money Labour wasted on a failed NHS IT system ?

Where were the motions attacking the 66% rise in the number of NHS managers – six times as fast as the number of Nurses – under a Labour Government?

There are no shortage of health issues where it would be helpful if the Labour councillors supposedly running this Council took a lead

Reading is a town with massive health inequalities

Children from poorer backgrounds have worse health than those in other areas

And people in poorer areas die younger

People in Reading suffer more early deaths from heart disease and Stroke

There are more teenage pregnancies

These should be the issues occupying us as councillors

And yet we have a lead member for health who spends more time politicking then getting down to work to improve health outcomes for all our residents

This motion says more about Labour’s political priorities than it does the real issues facing residents

 It was a liberal, working in a Coalition, who first imagined the NHS and its values of healthcare available to all, free at point of delivery, based on clinical need, not ability to pay.

 And so we on this have more faith in Dame Shirley Williams and her colleagues in the House of Lords doing whatever is necessary to safeguard the NHS both and in the future than we do in Reading Labour Party. '

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