Andy Burnham has written to Jeremy Hunt, the new Secretary of State for Health, challenging him to confirm whether he still wishes to replace the NHS with an insurance system.
Full copy of the letter:
Congratulations on your appointment as Secretary of State for Health.
You inherit a very different NHS from your predecessor – demoralised and destabilised. Where you work to restore the founding values of the NHS and repair the damage, you will have our support. If you continue on the same course, we will speak for the public and NHS staff in providing vigorous opposition.
We repeatedly warned your predecessor that he was making a disastrous mistake by re-organising the NHS at a time of financial stress. This has led to two lost years for the NHS. It has been distracted from the efficiency challenge and patient care has been put at risk.
There have also been serious concerns expressed about the ideological direction of your Government. These intensified yesterday when it emerged that you had co-authored a book, advocating the replacement of the NHS with an insurance based system. I quote a key passage:
“We should fund patients, either through the tax system or by way of universal insurance, to purchase health care from the provider of their choice. The poor and unemployed would have their contributions supplemented or paid for by the state.”
Patients and staff will have serious concerns about these remarks and have a right to know whether you remain of this view. Therefore, I think it is imperative for you to issue an early clarification.
There are also a number of other statements in the book, ‘Direct Democracy: An Agenda for a New Model Party’, that require further explanation.
1. “Our ambition should be to break down the barriers between private and public provision, in effect denationalising the provision of health care in Britain.”
Do you remain of the view that the NHS needs to be “denationalised”?
2. “Instead of tinkering with a fundamentally broken machine, it (the Conservative Party) should offer to update the model.”
Do you still believe the NHS is a “fundamentally broken machine”?
You will of course note that when Labour left office public satisfaction with the NHS was at a record high. Under your Government we have seen the largest ever drop in public satisfaction with the NHS.
I hope you can urgently clarify your position so that people are left in no doubt what your true intentions are for the NHS.
I look forward to hearing from you.
RT HON ANDY BURNHAM MP