Andrew Lansley’s health reforms are an albatross hanging around the Coalition’s neck. The health secretary’s inability to sell his flagship policy to the electorate has arguably made the bill politically unviable. Criticism from the left and right, perhaps most significantly Conservative Home editor Tim Montgomerie’s call to scrap the proposals, have wounded Lansley to a near fatal extent.
Yet, while the politics behind the reforms have been disastrous, are the principles that underpin the Health and Social Care Bill worthy of such vitriolic opposition? Today, the centre-right think tank Reform argues that competition, one of the most controversial clauses in the bill, is integral to the future survival of the NHS.
If hospitals compete with each other, so the theory goes, then costs will be driven down, patient choice improved and efficiency increased. Competitive measures implemented by the last Labour government resulted in a reduction in the average length of stay in hospital. Indeed, while Ed Miliband may be firmly against the Coalition’s reforms now, the 2010 Labour manifesto that he wrote actually committed his party to increased private sector involvement and “tough…sustained reform.”