Conservative Diary

Health

11 Mar 2013 07:47:47

Maude heads queue of Conservative MPs who believe Nicholson must go

By Paul Goodman
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Screen shot 2013-03-11 at 07.45.58I wrote on this site last week that the Mid-Staffs hospital horror requires the resignation of David Nicholson, and Jeremy Hunt replied that the NHS Chief Executive has apologised - "and now Labour must too.  The Sun claims today that Francis Maude has urged the Prime Minister to dismiss Nicholson, and notes that the Cabinet Office refused to comment on this claim when asked.

The Mail reports that "yesterday it emerged Mr Maude has argued for weeks that Sir David’s departure is necessary if accountability is to mean anything in the public sector", and reports that "a Cabinet source" as saying: "Francis Maude has been one of the voices telling No10 that Nicholson should go, from the point of view of civil service accountability more than anything else."

Continue reading "Maude heads queue of Conservative MPs who believe Nicholson must go" »

6 Mar 2013 07:50:29

Is Number Ten so defensive over the NHS that it has forgotten how to attack? (As, over Mid-Staffs, it should.)

By Paul Goodman
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Tony Blair swooped on a cowed Conservative front bench with all the histrionic skill and focused outrage at his disposal.  In the same horrified tones that he had used to respond to the heart-breaking murder of Jamie Bulger, he read details of deaths to gasps of horror from Labour MPs.  The breast cancer sufferer found by her husband crying and alone, surrounded in blood and urine...the 95-year-old woman with diarrhoea, vomiting and water leaking from her swollen legs, who lay unexamined by a doctor for four days...the woman who was told to “toilet in her bed”, and discovered a male patient sleeping across her legs.

"And all this happened," the Prime Minister concluded, glancing down at Alastair Campbell's script, "on the watch of a party who told us that the NHS was safe in their hands."  His Deputy plunged the knife in even more directly: "It proves what we've always said," John Prescott said on Question Time that evening, before deploying a classic Labour attack line: "You can't trust the Tories on the NHS".  Downing Street clung on to the isolated NHS Chief Executive just long enough to ensure that the media's wrath had reached boiling-point - it commissioned a swift inquiry - before sacking him in as brutal and humiliating a manner as possible.  "Blair sacks angel of death," screamed the Mirror.

Continue reading "Is Number Ten so defensive over the NHS that it has forgotten how to attack? (As, over Mid-Staffs, it should.)" »

26 Feb 2013 06:48:58

Tory Cabinet ministers and Lib Dems have one message for Osborne: Cut the ring fences

By Tim Montgomerie
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ImagesGeorge Osborne is getting a very similar message from his Conservative and Liberal Democrat colleagues: Lift the ringfences.

Liberal Democrats are telling the Chancellor that they won't accept further cuts to welfare if he isn't willing to cut richer pensioners' benefits and, potentially, also "gently trim" the budgets for the NHS, schools and aid. Unlike the Tories, the Lib Dems' 2010 manifesto did not promise to ringfence key Whitehall budgets or the perks paid to better off pensioners.

And from his Right, Tory Cabinet colleagues are also saying that the next round of spending cuts will only be acceptable if the whole of Whitehall shares in the pain. Cabinet ministers like Theresa May feel that she's already achieved the near impossible. She has cut the budgets of the police for the first time ever and without a breakdown in law and order. On the contrary, crime has actually fallen by 10%. Eric Pickles is equally proud of the cuts he has made. Cuts to local government have been frontloaded but there hasn't been a meltdown for Tory councillors at the ballot box. Public opinion polls suggest that voters are seeing through Labour attempts to 'shroud wave' while, for example, maintaining reserves.

Continue reading "Tory Cabinet ministers and Lib Dems have one message for Osborne: Cut the ring fences" »

25 Feb 2013 19:11:41

Michael Fallon launches Thatcherite attack on Labour's failed approach to regulation of banks and the NHS

By Tim Montgomerie
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Fallon Michael NewsnightIn an address to the Centre for Policy Studies tonight the Business Minister Michael Fallon MP will launch a strong attack on the regulatory culture that grew up during Labour's years. He will attack Labour and the European Union for imposing social and environmental costs on business - via regulation - that it was too frit to pay for itself, via taxation. He will say that regulation must become a last resort because it distracts businesses from their first task of creating wealth and jobs and forces them to devote scarce time and resources to compliance. Worst of all, he'll argue, the compliance and regulatory regimes have often completely failed to achieve what they set out to achieve and he'll focus on banking and NHS regulation to substantiate his argument.

On banking regulation Mr Fallon will say:

"Despite employing 2,600 people and an annual budget of £300 million, [the Financial Services Authority] failed to spot the risks the banks were taking and to restrict excessive leverage.  Despite thousands of pages of guidance, it ended up losing five of the ten big banks entrusted to its supervision. The subsequent fallout imposed massive costs - on UK taxpayers and on our economy.  It left our generation with a legacy of debt, public and private; it almost fatally weakened and unbalanced our economy. And all this in the name of regulation."

Continue reading "Michael Fallon launches Thatcherite attack on Labour's failed approach to regulation of banks and the NHS" »

13 Feb 2013 08:24:56

When will we see a Danny Boyle-style pageant showing nurses mistreating their patients?

Screen shot 2013-02-13 at 08.22.19

By Paul Goodman
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A recent British Future poll found that the three institutions which make people most proud to be British are, in reverse order, the Monarchy, the Armed Forces...and, topping the poll, the NHS.  The survey thus suggests that Danny Boyle had his finger on the popular pulse when he portrayed those all-singing-and-dancing nurses in his Olympics spectacular.  It can be claimed that the Mid-Staffs horror will transform this benign voter view of the NHS, for three main reasons.  First, because the shaming details of how patients were treated will make them think again.  Second, because the post-Francis Report reforms will work.  And third, because Jeremy Hunt will change perceptions of the system through his campaigning as a patients' champion.

I am sceptical.  The appalling tales of what happened in Mid-Staffs - the women who arrived to find her mother's hair covered with faeces, the old man forced to stay on a commode for 55 minutes wearing only a pyjama top - are unlikely, in themselves, to shift public attitudes formed over 65 years.  This is not only because the left has a vested interest in championing the ideal of a centrally-planned system designed in an era when communism seemed to be the wave of the future.  (Please note Paul Abbott's brilliant blog on this site about the silence of 38 Degrees over Mid-Staffs.)  It is also because voters' views are partly shaped by fear.  They value the NHS they know because they're frightened of an alternative for which they might to pay upfront.

Continue reading "When will we see a Danny Boyle-style pageant showing nurses mistreating their patients?" »

6 Feb 2013 17:25:35

Cameron favours accountability and transparency as response to Stafford Hospital scandal

By Harry Phibbs
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David Cameron reported to Parliament today on the findings of the Francis Report on how the scandalous neglect of patients at Staffordshire Hospital between 2005 and 2009 was able to occur.

Mr Cameron said:

The Inquiry finds that the appalling suffering at Mid-Staffordshire hospital was primarily caused by a “serious failure” on the part of the Trust Board which…

…failed to listen to patients and staff…

…and “failed to tackle an insidious negative culture involving a tolerance of poor standards and a disengagement from managerial and leadership responsibilities.”

But the Inquiry finds that the failure went far wider.

The Primary Care Trust assumed others were taking responsibility and so made little attempt to collect proper information on the quality of care.

The Strategic Health Authority was “far too remote from the patients it was there to serve, and it failed to be sufficiently sensitive to signs that patients might be at risk.”

Regulators, including Monitor and the then Healthcare Commission, failed to protect patients from substandard care.

Too many doctors “kept their heads down” instead of speaking out when things went wrong.

The Royal College of Nursing was “ineffective both as a professional representative organisation and as a trade union.”…

…and the Department of Health too remote from the reality of the services they oversee.

The way Robert Francis chronicles the evidence of systemic failure means we can not say with confidence that failings of care are limited to one hospital.

Mr Cameron identified from the report three failings - not just failings with this individual hospital but with the wider NHS culture. 

First "a pre-occupation with a narrow set of top-down targets" which excluded listening to what patients, their relatives, and many staff were saying.

Continue reading "Cameron favours accountability and transparency as response to Stafford Hospital scandal" »

6 Feb 2013 08:27:52

Can Cameron heal his divided Conservative coalition? Here are three suggestions for the Tory leader...

By Tim Montgomerie
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Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 07.43.13

81 Tory MPs rebelled on David Nuttall's EU referendum motion.

91 Tory MPs voted against Lords reform.

143 Tory MPs have voted against the Coalition's policies at some point. 37 are hardcore rebels.

136 Tory MPs voted, last night, against the Tory leadership's position on gay marriage. Another forty abstained.

Technically, of course, last night's vote wasn't a rebellion against government policy. It was a free vote. But it was certainly a vote against one of David Cameron's most important initiatives since becoming Prime Minister and also against his model of modernisation. Read today's papers and the result is certainly being presented as a rebellion against his authority. The party looks divided in the eyes of voters and voters don't like divided parties. Very divided. Some gay people may have new confidence in the PM but less faith in the Conservative Party.

Continue reading "Can Cameron heal his divided Conservative coalition? Here are three suggestions for the Tory leader..." »

6 Jan 2013 12:02:26

The row over NHS treatment of the elderly shows up the limits of localism

By Paul Goodman
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CountDown

Last week, the Daily Mail reported that David Cameron intends to improve the treatment of older people by the NHS by ensuring that the following measures are implemented:

  • Nurses will carry out hourly rounds of their patients.
  • Every NHS ward will have a "dementia champion".
  • There will be a "friends and family test" of the standard of care in NHS institutions.
  • Every NHS organisation will have a "dementia nursing expert".
  • "Nurses and midwives at the beginning of their career will be given the opportunity to become 'care markers', a new initiative to use volunteer ambassadors in hospitals and homes to improve care."

Today, Jeremy Hunt writes in the Sunday Telegraph that he intends to improve the treatment of older people by the NHS by ensuring that the following measures are implemented:

  • A "friends and family test".

Continue reading "The row over NHS treatment of the elderly shows up the limits of localism" »

5 Jan 2013 15:22:42

Will Jeremy Hunt and Andy Burnham break (organic, non-fattening, nutritionally-balanced) bread together?

By Peter Hoskin
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I was going to write a LeftWatch post about Andy Burnham’s new crusade against unhealthy foods, but then something intriguing happened that made it more of a ToryDiary post. So, here is that ToryDiary. But let’s start with Mr Burnham anyway.

As reported in the papers this morning, the shadow health secretary is mooting the idea of greater regulation of foods. Specifically, he suggests that the state might clamp down on foods that are high in sugars and fats, and particularly those aimed at children. He’s even proposed a 30 per cent cap on the sugar content in breakfast cereals such as Frosties. As he sees it, the Government’s current “voluntary” arrangements with food companies just aren’t bringing about the desired results.

Cue much ridicule of Mr Burnham across Twitter, not all of it unjustified. The shadow health secretary may have some very proper motivations driving him on, but there’s still something slightly, unavoidably ridiculous about him ruling over the sugar levels in kids’ cereals. “Leave my Sugar Puffs alone,” as the 4-year-old girl on YouTube puts it.

Continue reading "Will Jeremy Hunt and Andy Burnham break (organic, non-fattening, nutritionally-balanced) bread together?" »

4 Jan 2013 08:23:13

David Cameron’s new, tougher love for the NHS

By Peter Hoskin
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Poster

Back in the days before the Coalition, there was always a sense that David Cameron’s love for the NHS was unconditional. Sure, he’d criticise the health service from time to time, but the basic thrust of his policy was exemplified by that election slogan, “I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS”. His emphasis was largely on protecting the providers, not the patients.

But now, it seems, that relationship is changing. The Tory leader will today announce a new package of measures, all of which carry an implicit message for the NHS: “Buck up, now.” The Daily Mail contains a particularly full account of the package, but some of the standout measures include an obligation on nurses to carry out hourly rounds of their patients, and a plan to ask patients a single question — “Would you recommend the service to friends and family?” — about the care they receive at all levels, from GPs surgeries to district hospitals. It’s not yet certain whether the answers from these inquiries will be published online, but they could be.

Continue reading "David Cameron’s new, tougher love for the NHS" »