UK Politics

Without Foundation?

Nick Cohen complains about the permanent revolution within the NHS and hopes for a backbench rebellion against Foundation Hospitals.

The same lament about constant meddling from politicians could be applied to education where since the eighties there has been reform followed by contradictory reform. But while clearly a pain for those in the professions concerned the failure of previous reforms is not itself a case for no further change – if it hasn’t worked don’t fix it?

I am yet to be convinced either way about Foundation Hospitals. I do try to keep up with these sorts of debates but I suspect I am not the only one who really hasn’t got much of a clue what the actual proposals are these days after all the changes.

As Cohen points out, we are mostly hearing lots of warm and fuzzy buzzwords.

And who can be against ‘diversity’ ’empowerment’, ‘community engagement’? And no of course we don’t want ‘one-size-fits all’ (and looking at the Samizdata party photos I can see why some bloggers are passionately opposed to that!)

But nor has the left opposition case that Foundations=privitisation convinced me. Either I am totally missing something here or this is one of the most poorly explained and weakly opposed proposals for years.

If Tony Blair really is looking to ‘reconnect’ and relaunch New Labour (and getting rid of the word new might be a good start for the longest ever British centre-left government) he would do well to address the problem he has himself identified of reform being presented in such managerial terms – give us the vision.

If there is going to be a new settlement on public services then we need to know what is the NHS going to look like in 10 years time? Merely frightening us with the Tory alternative isn’t enough.

Labour needs to present a positive proposal that can win consent and that hasn’t yet been done – if there isn’t the confidence in the proposal itself then surely that is a strong case for a rethink. The NHS is almost part of the British constitution and people are naturally going to be sceptical of ‘modernisation’ when they know what that word often means in the private sector.

Afterthought: Cohen’s description of Labour rebels at the foot of his story raised a smile:

One of the most startling changes since the 1990s has been the turning of the clones and drones of the New Labour backbenches into spirited men and women who give a plausible imitation of having minds of their own.

To date, they have been rather directionless in their rebellions: 150 opposed the Government and demanded in effect that a tyrant be allowed to continue to torture and murder. Last week Labour MPs demanded the abolition of people in silly clothes killing foxes with dogs.

Update Stephen Pollard has this to say about Foundations and the introduction of what sounds like a board of school governers : “Worse than useless, Foundation Status may now actually be something to be avoided like the plague. ”