Earlier Tim Montgomerie wrote that the NHS Bill was a grave threat to David Cameron's chances of re-election. Sayeeda Warsi, Tory Chairman, has submitted this article in response.
The Conservative Party has always been for putting power in the hands of the individual, rather than the state. It has been our mission for decades. We should not forget it now.
The Health and Social Care Bill represents the most radical decentralisation of power that the NHS has witnessed in its history. As Conservatives, it is our duty to support it. It passes power to patients. It gives control over the NHS budget to doctors and nurses, and gives greater freedoms to hospitals. It cuts out £4.5 billion of bureaucracy. It is in every way a Bill that hands power to the frontline.
First, the Bill underpins a patients’ right to choose. That has been a central tenet of Conservative thinking for decades. The Bill is needed to stop healthcare providers – whether in the public, private or voluntary sectors – from frustrating the right of patients to decide how and where to be treated.
Second, the Bill enshrines in law the power that frontline staff should have the ultimate say in where NHS resources are spent. That used to be called GP fundholding. We won that battle in the 1990s – so successfully, that when Labour won the 1997 election and overturned it in a fit of pique, they found they had to bring it back in 2004 – albeit half-heartedly, and without legislation. This Government is finally putting that power back in place. And that is why organisations like the NHS Alliance, the National Association of Primary Care, and the Family Doctors’ Association support us. We need to put power in the hands of doctors and nurses, rather than a remote bureaucracy.