The independent London newspaper

This so-called NHS reform is a cynical distraction

18 February, 2021

Health secretary Matt Hancock

• AS I was receiving my first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, efficiently administered by caring NHS staff and volunteers at the Royal Free Hospital recreation club, the government announced plans for a wholesale reorganisation of the NHS in England, which will centralise power in ministerial hands.

Health secretary Matt Hancock defended timing of the announcement, arguing that coronavirus had highlighted the need for change, especially “better connectedness between health and social care, and greater political oversight”.

This is the same government that has refused calls for a review of its response to coronavirus Covid-19, claiming that the time isn’t right while we’re in the middle of fighting the pandemic.

That’s despite the UK having one of the worst death rates in the world and almost daily revelations about the ineffectiveness of our “world beating test-and-trace” system and poor returns from multi-million-pound contracts for Covid-related goods and services to companies with no track record in the sector but which happen to be Conservative party donors and/or personal contacts of government ministers.

The Labour Party should be making clear that the government’s proposed NHS restructuring is merely a cynical distraction from its mishandling of the pandemic and years of undermining the NHS through underfunding and relentless privatisation of key services such as pathology, blood donation, and ambulances.

While it’s at it, maybe Labour could commit to return all of the NHS to public ownership, pay staff (particularly nurses and junior doctors) properly, reinstate full grants for nurses’ training and cancel outstanding PFI contracts that continue to bleed funding from the Royal Free, University College Hospital, and many others.

That’s a reorganisation that would be timely and welcome.

Willes Road, NW5


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