Friday, 9 March 2007

The Chairman’s Voice

Dr Tony Clarke, Chairman, CMS

There are many problems with being in opposition. The most frustrating is watching an incompetent Government destroying things which they of all people should have protected and nurtured.

New Labour came to power on a promise to the British people that theirs would be a new type of politics, sleaze-free, devoted to investing in and improving public services and helping everyone to reach their full potential. A decade later we see more ministers than you can shake a stick at having to resign for every indiscretion imaginable, huge sums wasted on ridiculous projects like the NHS IT programme, record debt within the NHS and appalling low morale of many of the staff in the NHS, schools, police forces, the prisons and the Job Centres, to name but a few.

We have a Government that seems to know nothing of rural Britain and is prepared to raid year on year pension funds, while selling honours for cash. Add to this, little items like Iraq, the Millennium Dome, ID cards and a disaster area called the Home Office and that frustration becomes understandable. Another frustration is knowing how many of the problems could be solved. This is made worse by knowing that if the solutions are made public, then the government will steal them and then distort them. Having principals is not New Labour’s strong suit.

Oppositions however tend to frustrate their supporters if they do not come up with policies. David Cameron has already put his mark on the Party, widening its appeal to the electorate. He has established a number of groups to examine important areas of policy, including health and social security. We are now beginning to see the results of these consultations: David Cameron, Andrew Lansley and Stephen Dorrell held a briefing meeting in Bristol in late January to discuss the mid-term health plans. The CMS had put in a major discussion document in response to the preceding consultation and we were delighted to see just how much of our ideas have been adopted within those plans.

Simply put the Conservative Party rejects the present destructive target culture, the micromanagement and the endless reorganisations and gimmicks which have done so much to waste the so-called investment of so much public money. Instead:
  • We will have only high level targets related to outcome, not process.
  • We will seek to reduce mortality and morbidity of the major causes of ill health, such as cardiac disease and cancer, but will not describe or proscribe the exact methods that will be used to achieve those high level targets.
  • Rather, we will give the professionals, both clinical and managerial, within healthcare the freedom to develop the systems to deliver those outcomes.
  • We will restore public health to its proper place to protect our citizens against health risks of all types.
  • We will encourage the spread of best practice.
  • We will look to move significant funding into primary care, where the majority of healthcare takes place.
  • We will, of course, look to a plurality of provision, but from the perspective of a level playing field. Foundation trusts will be the norm – they will be able to show how good they can be at providing high quality, timely and cost-effective care rivalling anything in the independent sector.
New Labour, in the shape of Tony Blair, said “24 hours to save the NHS”. It was a silly, hollow promise, which ten years later highlights the overall failure of this Government. His refusal to step aside, despite the fact he is now discredited and ineffective, shows just how much he has lost touch with the electors whom he so enchanted and to whom he offered so much. Maybe he realises just how disastrous Gordon Brown will be for the country. We need a Conservative Government and we need it sooner rather than later. Who else is going to save the country’s great public services and put back the pride in Britain?

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