Sunday, October 26, 2008

The NHS does not belong to any one party

Andrew Lansley, shadow health secretary, this weekend commented about how the NHS is something all parties should support and none can claim as their exclusive property. This is what he said:

"This week Health Secretary Alan Johnson got hot under the collar when campaigning in the Glenrothes by-election and accused us of trying to 'steal' the NHS from Labour. Mr. Johnson is getting jittery over a series of polls from the last year which have shown that, in its sixtieth year, people are beginning to trust Conservatives more than Labour with the future of the NHS.

The NHS was introduced by Aneurin Bevan (a socialist) but the groundwork, in the form of White Paper, came from Beveridge (a Liberal) and Henry Willink (a Conservative) in Winston Churchill's coalition Government.

Whilst I find Alan Johnson's irritation quite amusing, he should remember that the NHS does not belong exclusively to any group - let alone a political party.

One of the most remarkable things about the NHS is the loyalty it inspires in staff, patients and the public alike; it binds the nation together. Most of us were born in an NHS hospital. We are all shareholders through the taxes we pay. Even if we've never been treated in an NHS hospital, we all have an auntie, sibling, friend or neighbour who works in the NHS. My father worked in the health service from the day it was created in 1948; next week I'm looking forward to attending a dinner in honour of his 30 years of service in the pathology lab at East Ham Memorial Hospital.

After eleven years of Labour's central command and micro-management, it comes as no surprise that they believe the debate about our health service centres on political possession. But Alan Johnson is completely missing the point: the competition isn't over ownership, it's about trust.

We can be proud that, in its diamond anniversary, the British people have indicated they're willing to trust their NHS to our care. We will do everything we can to live up to that honour."

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