Tuesday, 4 September 2012

How will history judge Andrew Lansley?

As predicted, the Secretary of State for Health has been moved out of harm’s way in David Cameron’s government reshuffle.  Also as predicted there is a dearth of wise cracks about Andrew Lansley’s departure and muted celebration among NHS employees at the end of tenure for an unpopular minister.

But there have also been some kinder words – such as the Health Services Journal editor, Alistair McClellan who delivered the veiled compliment ‘…by a long shot – not the worst health sec of modern times..’ 

The Royal College of Nursing have hedged their bets – saying ‘In challenging times, the RCN has not always seen eye to eye with Andrew Lansley on the government’s health reforms. However, we have welcomed the continuous dialogue….’

The BMA's official statement was a little less tactful with 'The appointment of a new health secretary provides a fresh opportunity for doctors and government to work together to improve patient care and deal with the many challenges facing the NHS

And what exactly do I mean by ‘out of harm’s way’? Has the harm already been done? Or is moving Lansley to the new post of Leader of the House of Commons effectively taking him out of the firing line as problems with the Health and Social Care Bill inevitably escalate. He may well appreciate the relative calm of organising the government business in the House as the £20 billion savings target for the NHS becomes reality and the new Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt sticks his head above the trenches to face heavier, and better targeted fire.

I wonder how the unbiased should view Andrew Lansley’s ten years’ devotion to the cause. And be assured that devoted he has been. Misguided, intransigent, short sighted,  tunnel-visioned – Lansley meant well but got it wrong. He is a politician with ill-conceived strategy who used flawed benchmarks.

I don’t believe that the Health and Social Care Bill will destroy the NHS – there are too many good people within the system to let that happen, but Lansley was the architect of much confusion who handed the mantel of power to, in the main, unwilling recipients as many GPs’ retirement has been hastened. His reforms will probably waste more money than they will save and his unsustainable sound bites outweighed his good ideas.

I wish Andrew Lansley all the best in his new role and who knows how history will ultimately judge him. But for now, he’s the Health Secretary who just didn’t listen.


Rob Dickman said...

Health SofS's rarely come out of the job with reputations enhanced - Stephen Dorrell and Ken Clarke being notable recent exceptions.

I'm no particular fan of Mr Lansley but surely no one can argue that (at least amongst politicians) he had the widest knowledge of the NHS and health policy in general. His mistake was not sticking to his guns on his original plans. What we have now is the result of meddling (the Future Forum), lobbying (BMA etc) and undermining from the top (Cameron) - as a consequence, from the highly decentralised approach of the original White Paper, we now have the most centralised NHS in living memory.

Ultimately, it was the wrong plan at the wrong time and was probably continued with to provide his "legacy". Now we all have to make sense of it....

Finchers Consulting said...

As always you have summed things up beautifully Rob! Alas the muddled mess seems to reflect everything going on in the coalition right now..

Rob Dickman said...

I don't necessarily see health as a deal breaker in the Coalition although some of health policy issues emanating from Europe might hasten things along when they come into view....

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