The Labour Party is warning that Cornwall has only two months to save its National Health Service.
Cornwall Council’s Liberal Democrat-Independent administration, backed by local Conservatives, plans to set up an Accountable Care Organisation on 7th February – signalling the end of a “National” health service for people west of the Tamar. The 7th February is the date on which the council’s cabinet will launch its ACO.
Labour Party supporters in Cornwall are now exploring ways of supporting a legal challenge to the idea, which would put the council in charge of deciding health priorities and pave the way for even more privatisation.
North Cornwall Labour Party campaign spokesperson Joy Bassett said the council’s plans were deeply worrying. “It is not surprising that Cornwall’s Liberal Democrats are looking to rekindle their love affair with the Tories,” she said, “but the way they are going about it is disgraceful. There has been no public consultation, nor any scrutiny in Parliament.
“This is not just a very bad idea, it is almost certainly illegal. Health campaigners in other parts of the country are already waking up to this and are starting Judicial Review proceedings against Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is trying to sell our NHS to his American buddies. I think everyone in Cornwall needs to start asking some serious questions about what is going on at County Hall.”
The government is already trying to set up Accountable Care Organisations in seven areas of England, with Cornwall aiming to be one of the “next wave.” ACOs signal the break-up of the NHS and its replacement by local commissioners and providers. Although healthcare would still be free to patients (at least to start) the funding mechanisms, democratic controls and quality of service would all be subject to local decision-making – and very tightly controlled budgets.
One of the ideas put forward by Cornwall Council is to cut the costs of healthcare by encouraging people to drink less alcohol. The council would seek to do this by introducing a “minimum price” once people enter from the Devon border.
“Minimum pricing as a national policy is an idea which is certainly worthy of further consideration,” said Joy. “But border controls for the price of booze is a pretty strange way to finance healthcare in Cornwall.
“The Tories have always been against the National Health Service and so their position on this, seeking to swell profits for their friends in the private sector, is only to be expected. But the Labour Party calls on all Liberal Democrats to really look at what their councillors are now doing and tell them to stop. People in North Cornwall tactically voted for the Lib Dems to keep the Tories out, not to once again buy into the Tory agenda of selling off the NHS. What are they playing at?!