Press release 20th July 2016
Owen Smith’s clarification of his position on the NHS leaves us wondering where the differences are between the major parties, says Dr Paul Hobday, leader of the National Health Action Party.
Dr Paul Hobday, leader of the National Health Action Party has responded to Owen Smith’s statement on the NHS, "Conservative, Coalition and New Labour Governments have thought it good enough to limit their commitment to the NHS as being free at the point of use. This sidesteps the issue of who owns or provides the service and what we actually mean by ‘the NHS’. The current cross-party Lord’s Committee on long-term sustainability calls this into question when it asks what can be removed from the NHS to be put on ‘pay lists’.
Now Owen Smith has tried to clarify his position on the NHS by saying he has always supported “a fully publicly funded NHS” and his spokesman has repeated “he is 100% committed to a fully publicly owned NHS, free at the point of use”.
This is simply not adequate. There is no mention of who is providing this service. For someone who has not only supported the private sector’s involvement in the NHS but has also lobbied for it this is not a clear enough position.
Anyone fully committed to the NHS as a comprehensive and universal service should also be stressing that the services must be publicly provided too. There is sufficient evidence both from international comparisons and from the 68 years of the NHS’ existence that for continuity of care with national standards public provision is best.
Mr Smith should have a good look at the NHS as is currently configured. The government is no longer responsible for providing it and it is being reshaped into our own version of the American health system with a mix of private, public and voluntary sector providers. Many of its current woes arise from the competition that has been introduced, breaking up its cooperative nature and diverting its reduced funding away from front line services.
When Owen Smith made his first electoral bid in 2006 it was in Aneurin Bevan’s old constituency. He should bear that in mind and be more precise in his defence of the NHS as a public service.”