Friday News Review

NHS meltdown

Labour has accused Andrew Lansley of “disgraceful secrecy” for refusing to reveal what risks his officials believe the NHS shakeup poses to the health system. The Department of Health has admitted it has identified things that could go wrong as a direct result of its radical restructuring of the NHS in England. But it has rejected Labour’s request for details to be released under the Freedom of Information Act, arguing that such disclosure would impede ministers. Experts have warned that the reorganisation could hit the quality of care, lead to financial problems and make local NHS organisations less accountable. Many major NHS and medical organisations identified a large number of risks, in both the changes themselves and the period before they take effect in April 2013, when they responded to the recent government consultation on the controversial plans. John Healey, the shadow health secretary, began pursuing details of what risk assessment the health department or its advisers had undertaken to identify potential hazards caused by the biggest changes to the NHS since its creation in 1948. – Guardian

The coalition’s big idea for health is that while the government would still pay for NHS treatment, all commissioning will be carried out by private GP consortiums and service provision will be further opened up to private companies, with the odd sprinkling of not-for-profits. Market competition will drive up standards and lower costs, bringing value for money for taxpayers. So why not say so? In health secretary Andrew Lansley’s consultation on the reforms, due to close tomorrow, there is no use of the words ‘private’, ‘market’ or ‘commercial’. The issue is clouded over with the words “any willing provider” and “independent providers”. – Left Foot Forward

Was it ever in doubt

Debbie Abrahams secured a 3,558 majority – higher than their 1997 landslide – to give a boost to Ed Miliband’s leadership. The Liberal Democrats, who came within 100 votes of taking the seat in May, held on to second place. The Conservatives, who were accused of “soft-pedalling” in the contest in order to try and help their Coalition partners, came a distant third. Nick Clegg insisted the Lib Dems remained a “strong, united” party, despite the heavy loss. Leaving his London home this morning, the party leader insisted that it had been a good showing at what was a “challenging time” for the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition. “I think the strong result in this by-election for the Liberal Democrats shows that whether we are in government or in opposition we remain a strong, united independent party whose values continue to attract support,” the Deputy Prime MInister said. – Telegraph

Labour’s Debbie Abrahams took 14,718 votes, over 3,500 more than the Liberal Democrats’ candidate, Elwyn Watkins, who was beaten by just 113 votes last May by Labour’s Phil Woolas, though Woolas was later ejected from his seat by court judges. However, the disappointing result for the Conservative candidate, Rashif Ali, who received just 4,481 votes, will strengthen Mr Cameron’s party critics, who have argued that the Conservatives failed to throw their weight behind Mr Ali because they wanted the Liberal Democrats to win. In her victory speech, Ms Abrahams said Oldham East and Saddleworth had delivered a message to Mr Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader, Mr Nick Clegg that they had “cutting too much and too fast”. The Labour victory came less than 12 hours after Greater Manchester Council, which is responsible for Oldham, announced that it would cut nearly 20 per cent of its staff over the next year, in an attempt to keep inside reduced Whitehall spending pledges. Delighted by the victory, Labour’s shadow education secretary, Mr Andy Burnham, said it marked “the first step” in rebuilding the party after last year’s election defeat: “I know it is going to be a long road, but it is the first step,” he told The Irish Times . – Irish Times

There was another election last night

Labour has secured its only seat on Cornwall Council after winning a by-election. Labour soared from fifth place at the last by-election in 2009 to win Camborne North. Jude Robinson, who stood as a Labour candidate in the general election in 2010, won 230 votes, a 15% swing from the Conservatives who came second. She called it a “turning point” for Labour, which also won Oldham East and Saddleworth parliamentary by-election. Ms Robinson said: “I am very pleased. “I worked hard and people have been told for a long time they can’t vote Labour here because that would let the Conservatives in. “But this has proved Labour is the opposition to the Conservatives. This is a turning point for us.” –

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