As we read of another scandal of neglect and cruelty in a privately run nursing home, as we hear that competition law is blocking the co-operation between NHS providers in Torbay and in Bournemouth and Poole, as we hear of millions of pounds spent in putting contracts out to private tender it would be tempting to say that it is all over for the NHS. It feels like standing in a greenhouse being bombarded with hailstones the size of golf balls with shattering shards of glass falling all around and nowhere to hide.
Rather than despair, those of us who know and love the NHS are asking “Where next for the NHS?”
I am currently going to London every week as part of a policy working group for the Liberal Democrats. We are looking at the delivery of public services.
This is a crunch time for Liberal Democrats as well as a crunch time for the NHS. Nick Clegg made it quite clear at the autumn conference that the Liberal Democrats are a separate party and will go forward to the next election with Liberal Democrat policies. We shall not be campaigning on coalition policies, but presenting the electorate with our vision for the country.
So what will come out of our policy working group? We could lamely endorse the Lansley reforms of the NHS and think of a few tweaks here and there that will make it look as if we are doing something. Or, alternatively, we can come up with a genuine vision for an NHS that is effective, efficient and equitable: and NHS of which the country and Liberal Democrats can be proud.
Which will it be? Do the Liberal Democrats still have passion? Is there still some of the vision of Beveridge? We shall see.
To help the working group in their deliberations I have produced a discussion paper, which they have all seen but the chairman has yet to find the time to discuss it. If you would like to see it for yourself you can download it by going here and then click on the book like the one below.