The rank and file in our party are not happy, and it’s all about healthcare. They’re unhappy because neither the Conservative nor Liberal Democrat manifestos mentioned wholesale changes to the NHS and the coalition deal didn’t either. They’re unhappy because they don’t feel the Lib Dem leadership has put sufficient distance between itself and Andrew Lansley’s plans. And they’re very unhappy about any suggestion of privatisation of any part of the NHS.
But this is not just a “gut feel” reaction. It’s clear that PCTs have not been “the best thing since sliced bread” but a significant number of our local members have first-hand experience of the US model, where the most important question is “how will you be paying?”. We know how a US style system works, and we don’t want it. We welcome improvements, but they have to be handled carefully because the PCTs were rushed in, and look where that’s got us.
So what is missing from the reform plans? Well the Lib Dem Conference gave a very clear steer to the Parliamentary party regarding any privatisation, especially with any beneficial conditions to the private companies hoping to provide services. And at consultation sessions, the most important questions were “who is responsible” and “who do I complain to?”
But there is also a second fear. PCTs have already “leapt before they looked” and started laying people off so if the new changes somehow stall, we risk being left with no PCTs, and no GP consortia to replace them. So we’re now damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. This process of “full steam ahead, no sorry I meant all stop” is clearly not the way improvements to the NHS should be made – and it’s time the Lib Dem leadership made that clear!