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Chris Skidmore MP: Burnham will do anything to avoid facing up to the Labour's NHS failure

SKIDMORE CHRISChris Skidmore is the Member of Parliament for Kingswood and a Member of the Health and Education Select Committees.  Follow Chris on Twitter.

Following an extended period of silence Andy Burnham has finally stuck his head above the parapet on twitter, repeating predictions he first made in 2011 that the NHS is at death’s door. Only this time, apparently ‘this time we mean it’.

In less than 140 characters, it seems that Burnham, still damaged from the Francis report’s horrific conclusions into Labour’s tenure at the department, has torn whatever remaining credibility he had to shreds. Last year I took a retrospective look at the ridiculous claim he’d made when the Health and Social Care Bill was going through parliament that there were only ‘72 hours’ to save the NHS. Months later, with the Bill passed, it was clear his predictions of death had been premature.

As I noted ‘the political debate ended up becoming more about paranoid speculation than the practical content of the bill itself, with Andy Burnham championing the interests of the middle-managers rather than professionals and patients, claiming that there was "72 hours to save the NHS". For someone who in the final months of the Labour government was championing GP-led commissioning, it was an unfortunate corner to be backed into. Months on, the NHS remains alive and well’ (Conservative Home, 29 August 2012).

Now, in this late hour with the Act about to take full effect, Andy Burnham has extended his 72 hour deadline, set all the way back in 2011, to the 18th of March 2013. On Twitter he has claimed, in a move which could be mistaken for parody, that there are now just ‘two weeks to save the NHS (and this time we mean it)’.

One is left wondering why on earth Andy Burnham would make himself look foolish again by repeating ridiculous claims that the NHS is on its deathbed? Could he be trying to distract from the ongoing Mid Staffs scandal which he has been keeping so quiet about?  As I wrote two weeks ago he was the health minister who recommended the Trust be awarded the prized accolade of Foundation Trust Status. More disturbingly he was then involved in keeping the true scale of the tragedy quiet; a total of 81 requests for a full public enquiry being ignored while he and Alan Johnson were in charge of the Department. In the two years after the crisis was revealed and calls for a public enquiry were being ignored ‘2,800 more people had died than would be expected [across the NHS]. One cannot escape the fact that had we not had to wait two years for a full inquiry we could have learnt the lessons earlier; without question lives could have been saved’ (Conservative Home, 24 February 2013). Yet until now all he has offered is silence.

The tactic may now have changed but the strategy remains the same. Andy Burnham will do anything to avoid facing up to the appalling failure which happened under Labour’s watch and as a result of their policies. The problem with all this shroud waving is that, like the boy who cried wolf, no one will believe him.


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