Labour has confirmed it will repeal the Health and Social Care Act without another structural reform should the party come into power at the next general election.
In a rousing speech to the Labour Party conference in Manchester today (Wednesday 3 October 2012), Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said he has a “huge responsibility” to challenge the legislation “every month until the next election”.
Burnham won a standing ovation from his Labour colleagues when he announced his intention to repeal the government’s health reforms should the party be successful in 2015 and replace it with a ‘whole person care’ model in which there is one system caring for the whole person - with councils and the NHS working closely together.
“The next government will repeal the Act, restore the N in NHS, stop the sell-off and put patients before profits,” he said.
“We can save it without another structural reorganisation. I’ve never had any objection to involving doctors in commissioning. It’s the creation of a full-blown market I can’t accept.
“So I don’t need new organisations. I will simply ask those I inherit to work differently.
“Not hospital against hospital or doctor against doctor.
“But working together, putting patients before profits.”
Head of Health at trade union Unite Rachael Maskell said Burnham’s speech was a “beacon of hope”, yet Dr Mark Porter, Chair of British Medical Association Council, said he is still unclear as to how Burnham will achieve genuine whole person care.
“Yet more, major structural change, would be hugely disruptive, and particularly when the NHS is likely to face considerable financial pressure for some time still to come,” he said.
“It would be better to concentrate on reducing fragmentation by removing the artificial split between purchasers and providers of healthcare.”
Poking fun at the new Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Burnham said he was the “invisible man”.
“It is hard to be a shadow when you are up against the invisible man,” he said.
“Hunt Jeremy. The search is on for the missing Health Secretary. A month in the job and not a single word from him.
“Never before has the NHS been lumbered with a Secretary of State with so little belief in it. It’s enough to say ‘Bring back Lansley’.”
Burnham’s speech was also a platform to reflect on Labour’s mistakes in its running of the NHS.
He admitted some PFI deals were “poor value for money”, that care of older people “wasn’t good enough” and the market was “let in too far at times”.
Yesterday, Labour Leader Ed Miliband also backed Burnham’s plight to repeal the Health Act, claiming the party will end the “free market experiment” and put the right principles back at the heart of the NHS.