Labours gift to Lansley

Letter from Lansley A, to Healey J 19.01.2011

Dear John,

As you know, the Health and Social Care Bill represents evolution, not revolution for the NHS. As the Chief Architect of Change, I am extremely proud of this bill, but I know that I owe your predecessors this small note of acknowledgment for their hard work over the last 30 years, paving the way for an NHS we can all be proud of,

Yours sincerely,

Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley

Labours gift was to set up the NHS ready for Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill by preparing an internal market, payment by results, the purchaser-provider split and foundation trusts. It did this (amongst other ways) by establishing a commercial directorate at the department of health, staffed almost entirely by representatives of the private health sector.

The following is from a campaign card I wrote in 2009 with Professor Harry Keen CBE MD FRCP (author of this letter to the Financial Times)

Click here to see the original campaign card

Public opposition to NHS privatisation is perfectly expressed by the inspiring words of the Election Manifesto that brought the Labour Government to power in 1997:

Our fundamental purpose is simple but hugely important: to restore the NHS as a public service working cooperatively for patients not a commercial business driven by competition.

The great progress and promise of our NHS is being undermined by progressive patchwork privatisation. This damaging process of privatisation has:

1. Converted the NHS into a market, driving NHS Hospitals and GPs into competition with each other instead of working together to care for patients.

2. Compelled the NHS to ‘contract out’ clinical work to private companies, some working in Independent (Private) Sector Treatment Centres, costing more cash and working less well than NHS clinics can.

3. Forced Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to allow private health corporations to take over GP surgeries. Companies interested first and foremost in making a financial profit from treating the sick can now replace your local doctors.

4. Obliged hospitals and local health bodies to invite private companies to take over key NHS services. No longer just car parking, cooking and cleaning, they must invite private bids for core clinical services like bone and brain scans, physiotherapy, psychology and even surgical centres and local GP surgeries.

5. Appointed private sector companies into key NHS decisionmaking seats. Here they directly influence the spending of vast sums of public money to commission NHS services, some from private sector companies. This creates huge potential for favoured deals and conflicts of interest. A Competition and
Cooperation Panel acts as enforcer, making sure NHS managers don’t resist these privatisation drives.


Healey’s recent speech to the King’s fund was disingenuous at best. I wrote to my MP Meg Hillier and Health ministers Alan Johnson and Andy Burnham in 2009 and 2010 warning of the dangers of coverting a public service into a free market and their replies were patronising waffle, reassuring me me that there was absolutely no chance of the NHS being privatised under New Labour.

With the exception of the Greens, all the political parties have been committed to handing the NHS over to the private sector.

Only a committment to Labours 1997 pledge will represent serious opposition to this bill. But even if that is promised, can we believe them? Faced with neoliberal hegemony will any party commit to the re-establishment of socialised healthcare?

It is up to us as patients, professionals and citizens to save the NHS, we are fighting for more than health care. Democracy is at stake.

The Plot against the NHS

By Colin Leys and Stewart Player
Colin Leys is an emeritus professor at Queen’s University Canada and an honorary professor at Goldsmiths College London. His most recent books are The Rise and Fall of Development Theory, Market-Driven Politics, and Total Capitalism. He has been studying and writing about the NHS since the late 1990s. Stewart Player is a public policy analyst with extensive experience of studying the NHS. He is the co-author with Colin Leys of Confuse and Conceal: The NHS and Independent Treatment Centres, and author or co-author of numerous articles on the NHS.
with CARTOONS BY Julian Tudor-Hart

Do the coalition government’s plans for the NHS really mean a big change of policy?  Or do they just bring into the open what New Labour was already doing?

This book shows what has really been going on:

The plot: how a small ‘policy community’ inside and outside the Dept. of Health have schemed for ten years to replace the NHS with a US-style healthcare market – without telling parliament or the public.

The template: how the close links established after 2000 between the Department of Health and the US health maintenance organisation Kaiser Permanente led to the American market model becoming the lode-star of government policy

The players: the insiders of the policy community – the corporate heavies, the mercenaries (management consultants), the think-tankers and the freelancers (some academics and doctors), and the ‘revolving door’ that lets private company representatives into jobs in the Department of Health, and ex-ministers and officials into lucrative positions in private health companies

The interests served: the private health industry and its drive to take over from NHS hospitals and GPs – the companies involved, their lobby, their businesses, their fortunes – and in some cases, their crimes

How it has been done: key elements in the strategy – the provision of openings for the private sector at every stage of ‘reform’; so-called ‘pilot’ schemes that are never evaluated but promptly ‘rolled out’ across the country; buying off or denigrating critics; divide and rule in the NHS workforce; constant spin

The victims – us: the shape of the emerging healthcare market and how it is already driving costs up, and the availability and quality of care down, as revealed in real-life accounts by NHS patients and doctors; with high-quality care increasingly having to be paid for – by those who can afford it.

Market: General, Undergraduate and Post-graduate; Student Reading List; Library
Keywords:  Health policy, Health economics, Politics, NHS, Privatisation, UK.  Bic: MBN,KCQ, JP, JPP, 1DBK

216×138 mm; 128pp, 4 TABLES  EU publication  14.4.2011

Pbk    ISBN 978 0 85036 679 2     GB Pounds 12.95

THE MERLIN PRESS LTD. [Editorial +44 [0]20 8533 5800]
Order books from<>
6 Crane Street Chambers, Crane Street, Pontypool NP4 6ND, Wales  Tel 01495 764 100

6 responses to “Labours gift to Lansley

  1. The more I look into it, the more policies that I find were started by New Labour in power but are planned to be implemented by this Conservative government. For example:

    – Value Based Pricing which will hand potloads of money to Big Pharma merely because they ask for it, originated as an idea of the OFT and then trialled by New Labour.
    – Fair Playing Field. According to Lansley, he is creating a “level playing field” so that private providers can compete against those lazy, had-it-too-good-for-too-long NHS hospitals. The original study that he’s quoting? It is produced by KPMG, was commissioned by the Dept of Health by KPMG and published in 2009.

    I am a forgiving man, we all do things in our youth that we regret, but now is the time for New Labour to grow up. All I want is for Ed Miliband to commit to a publicly owned, publicly run and publicly accountable NHS.

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  3. I really love this post. I feel really strongly about the NHS too and want to do whatever I can to save it. We can pull back from the current privately owned bit but if Lansley’s plans go through the NHS has had it. SO what do we do? I’ve tried writing to my MP but he’s staunchly Tory and think the plans are great while also saying that the Tories won’t privatise the NHS.
    Do you have ideas for what we can do?

    • Thank you Helen, I think that most people want to save the NHS as a public service if they think seriously about it. I don’t think people really understand why it is necessary for health care to be a public service. I think that local press, papers/ radio are receptive and you should write to them, its almost certainly the best way to let people know what’s going on and to put pressure on your MP. There are a lot of good people working to save the NHS.

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