Dr Peter Bailey on Andrew Lansley’s Legacy

andrew_lansley17:23 Wednesday 16th July 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[C]HRIS MANN: Now, more on Andrew Lansley. His high-flying Westminster career came crashing back down to earth yesterday when he was kicked out of the Cabinet by David Cameron. And late last night he announced he would give up his South Cambridgeshire seat. But a former adviser to Mr Lansley when he was Health Secretary says he is now getting what he deserves for messing up the NHS. Peter Bailey is a former vice chair of the Cambridge Association to Commission Health, and I spoke to him earlier.
PETER BAILEY: Personally I like him a great deal, and I think he was a Health Secretary who knew more about the NHS than almost anyone else in that role, before or since, which from my point of view makes it all the more disappointing that such a disastrous reorganisation took place under his watch.
CHRIS MANN: Do you think he did a good job overall?
PETER BAILEY: Frankly no. I think that abolition of primary care trusts, which happened under his watch, actually removed a key element of the impartial management of the NHS. Now everybody who’s left to run the Health Service has a vested interest of one sort or another. GPs are now given responibility for the service, with a toxic mixture of increasing workload and dwindling budget.
CHRIS MANN: So that’s his fault.
PETER BAILEY: Yes. I think it flows directly from the big reorganisation under his watch.
CHRIS MANN: Well he then became of course Leader of the House of Commons, still apparently a senior member of the Government, close to the Prime Minister. People around had been hinting for months that he was expected to get this big job at the European Commission. Now he hasn’t. Are you surprised about that?
PETER BAILEY: Well I think it reflects the unhappiness that runs right across the Health Service at the moment. I think there is a terrible crisis in general practice, with as many as six out of ten GPs considering early retirement. The funding has been cut by something like 20% over the years, and we now have a historical low in funding of primary care, at the same time as we have absolutely unprecedented demand. And so general practitioners I think are willing to hang up their stethoscopes with a combination of exhaustion and anger, and I think that unless these things are addressed, we face a very very difficult time in primary care.
CHRIS MANN: So are you suggesting that his return to the back benches is reflecting the fact that his work while Health Secretary has helped to make the Government unpopular amongst many people?
PHILIP BAILEY: Yes, that’s exactly my view. The potential of the early days, when first of all we were promised no top-down reform of the NHS, which was suffering badly from constant reorganisation, those early days of promise, when we were really quite enthusiastic that we had a government that understood what was necessary to support the NHS, when that didn’t come to fruition I think people were first astonished and then dismayed, and now frankly really disillusioned and angry with what’s happened.
CHRIS MANN: I’m sure you’ve made your views known to Mr Lansley. What did he say to you?
PETER BAILEY: It was really quite difficult to get through. I was saying at the time of the reorganisation, I think there are serious mistakes here. And I was able to say these things directly to the Prime Minister as well, and also to senior management in the NHS, and to David Nicholson. But my warnings at the time that these problems would come fell on deaf ears.
CHRIS MANN: So, Andrew Lansley, wrecker of the NHS?
PETER BAILEY: That’s a pretty strong statement. I don’t think I would want to quite put it that far.
CHRIS MANN: How would you put it then?
PETER BAILEY: I think the reorganisation has been a terrible mistake. The NHS is not wrecked, it’s an extremely resiliant organisation, and it’s full of willing people, and it continues to do great work. But the warning signs of difficulty, the strain across the organisation, must be understood, must be recognised. Britain is a rich country. It does have enough money to put the NHS on a strong footing. And I think it’s time to do something about that.
CHRIS MANN: So sum up what Andrew Lansley’s done to it then.
PETER BAILEY: Introduced a disastrous reform.
CHRIS MANN: So disastrous reform.
PETER BAILEY: Yes, that’s my opinion. A disastrous reform. And sowed the seeds of the current discontent.
CHRIS MANN: Peter Bailey there former adviser giving his verdict on Andrew Lansley.