DOCTORS last night accused David Cameron of plotting to smash up the NHS as he sets out plans to rush through privatisation of the historic public service.
Critics fear the move will lead to closed hospitals, lengthy waiting lists, rationed medicines and a steep decline in the quality of care for patients.
And staff warn health reforms he will put before Parliament on Wednesday will spell the end of the NHS as we know it in a kick in the teeth for the dedicated staff who have worked tirelessly over the decades to provide free care for millions.
In a key speech today, the PM will say he wants more “competition” and “greater independence” for hospitals and schools. And in a worrying sign for thousands of workers, Mr Cameron is to claim he wants “one of the great legacies of this Government to be the complete modernisation of our public services”.
But experts fear the move is a cynical ploy to flog off large parts of the NHS to private medical firms who will put profit before health.
Mr Cameron was also accused of breaking his pre-election promise that there would be no more NHS “top-down” reorganisation.
Dr Clare Gerada of the Royal College of GPs said the shake up being pushed through by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley could “remove the letter N from the letters NHS”. Mr Lansley is planning to hand control of 80% of the NHS budget to groups of GPs or consortia who will be responsible for buying treatments, operations and drugs for their patients.
Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts will be axed. In his speech today Mr Cameron will boast that 140 GP consortia are already poised to start work.
But a report by the NHS Confederation which represents doctors, administrators and medical groups, said the reforms were “extraordinarily risky”.
Shadow Health Secretary John Healey said: “This report is a big red warning light ahead of the Government’s legislation. The more health experts see of the plans, the harder they find it to say something in support.
“The NHS is David Cameron’s biggest broken promise to date. He made the personal pledge to protect the NHS and his Coalition Agreement could not have been clearer in saying, ‘We will stop the top-down internal reorganisations of the NHS that have got in the way of patient care.
“The policy aims of more patient involvement and clinical control of commissioning are sound but can be achieved by the evolution of Labour’s reforms, not Mr Lansley’s revolution of NHS organisation.
“The report is a comprehensive demolition job on the Conservative-led Government’s handling of the NHS. Ministers are putting unprecedented pressure on the NHS by forcing through this high-cost, high-risk internal reorganisation and breaking their promise to protect NHS funding.
“Everyone saw big improvements in the NHS with Labour, but many great gains for patients are being put at risk by this reckless reorganisation.
“The report confirms that those who run our NHS see the Government’s reorganisation plans as a cocktail of instability and uncertainty, laced with broken promises.”
Lib Dem Andrew George also attacked Mr Cameron’s planned changes. He said: “The structures the Government is putting in place put at risk the public sector ethos of the NHS.”
He claimed Mr Lansley was allowing private firms to “cream off” the best bits of the health service.
The Confederation warned that the Government’s plan to allow “any willing provider” to carry out NHS work would lead to the further privatisation of the service. It warns that the NHS will have to shrink to make space for private firms and says the “closure of existing services will be necessary”.
Mr Cameron will defend the changes, saying they will be carefully “worked through”.