Sunday, August 29, 2010

Labour didn't love NHS Direct

There's been a lot of controversy about the Government's decision to close down NHS Direct in England and, as usual, the Labour Party have gone into overdrive to save it.

NHS Direct seems to me to be a very different organisation to NHS 24 which is effectively a triage service for out of hours care in Scotland.  Where NHS Direct appears to just  give advice, NHS 24's nurses will actually book the appointment at the out of hours service, or call an ambulance for you if necessary. The aim is that everyone who needs to be seen out of hours will be examined by a doctor.  Any decisions that affect NHS 24 will be made in Scotland by Scottish ministers. I think that there is a clear case for the service NHS 24 provides in Scotland. The days when every surgery had its own on-call GP are gone for the foreseeable future.

In England, Andrew Lansley has decided that NHS Direct is not the best use of NHS resources and is piloting a new helpline 111 service. Does that sound familiar? I certainly thought I'd heard about it before.

I had. On page 35 of this year's Labour Party manifesto, sits the following paragraph:
"A new, national 111 telephone number will make non emergency services far easier for people to access and book."
So they would have had this running alongside NHS Direct, doing much the same job, would they?  Course not! Yet Andy Burnham accuses Andrew Lansley of being on a "vindictive mission to break up the NHS" when he would have done the same thing himself.

Yet again Labour shamelessly puts bile and headline grabbing before credibility. They are taking people for fools in opposition in much the same way as they did in Government.

I do however, agree with Andrew, that the correct place for this announcment to be made was in Parliament, not the Sunday papers in the middle of the Summer recess.

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