11th January 2018
By Graham Smith
Former Labour health minister Ben Bradshaw has intervened in the row over Cornwall’s NHS to say he supports moves to create an Accountable Care System – which Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn fears will lead to more privatisation.
The Exeter MP, an enthusiastic outrider for Tony Blair’s “New Labour” in the 1990s and 2000s, has long been a critic of Mr Corbyn and his views about the NHS will come as no surprise. During his period as a health minister, Mr Bradshaw championed a greater role for private management of NHS Trusts, putting him at odds with the British Medical Association. He also defended car parking fees in NHS hospitals in England, at a time when Wales was abolishing such charges.
But his comments about Cornwall’s proposed Accountable Care System, in an interview for BBC South West, will cheer Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and irritate the new regimen of Corbyn-supporting Labour activists who now control most of their party in Cornwall. The official Labour Party policy on Accountable Care is that it opens the door to more privatisation and, in Cornwall, will lead to the closure of many community health facilities in rural areas.
“Same old Ben,” said one Labour Party official. “I would be surprised if he’d said anything different.”
But Mr Bradshaw was adamant that people who protest against Accountable Care are misguided. “Accountable Care will have multiple benefits,” he told the BBC.
— Martyn Oates (@bbcmartynoates) January 12, 2018
“And contrary to what some of the demonstrators suggest will make it easier for the NHS not to go down the private contracting route.”
A briefing paper prepared for Mr Bradshaw by Cornwall’s Shaping Our Future team of NHS managers, ahead of his BBC interview and seen by Cornwall Reports, seeks to draw a distinction between Accountable Care Systems (ACS) and Accountable Care Organisations (ACO.) The latter, in theory, makes it easier to privatise large swathes of the NHS – and was the term originally coined by Cornwall’s health and council managers. They later called their model an ACS and now insist they have “no plans” to develop into an ACO.
So far more than 100 MPs – the vast majority of them Labour – have signed an Early Day Motion critical of the Accountable Care approach to merging NHS organisations with local councils.