Thursday, 19 April 2012

Why Prof Robert Winston Saddened Me

A few people may have noticed that I had an issue with Professor Robert Winston’s Party Political Broadcast on Wednesday night on behalf of the Labour Party.

As the restrictive limit of Twitter means it is difficult to fully express issues I thought I would take the opportunity to set out why I think the broadcast was misleading and why Professor Winston’s role was ingenuous.

The main thrust of the broadcast was the broken promises on the NHS by David Cameron and the Coalition, the ‘top-down’ reform imposed on the NHS by the Health and Social Care Act, the loss of nursing jobs and the cuts in NHS services in general. I have no disagreement with any of this and it is the normal cut and thrust of politics.

What I did disagree with was the implication that voting Labour in the forthcoming Local elections would help improve the NHS.

The fact is Local Councils have no executive power when it comes to the NHS, Councils cannot reverse cuts, Councils cannot employ more nurses in the NHS and Councils do not have the power to initiate any reforms of the NHS.

If you read the Health and Social Care Act (which I have) there is a significant increase in local council involvement in Health, particularly in terms of public health, integrated services (e.g. social care) and through Health & Well Being boards, but none of this gives local councils power over the NHS.

Now if Ed Milliband had been touting that voting Labour in May the NHS would be improved in the areas where Labour held the council I probably would not have batted an eyelid. I (and I expect many people) expect politicians to try and mislead me in order to  seduce me  to vote for them.

However when a well-respected, well-known figure of authority does this, it should be of major concern. I spoke to someone today who saw the broadcast and asked them what it meant, and they told me that if Labour won the council elections they would make changes to improve the NHS. When I pointed out that, actually, that would not happen I was told I was wrong because Robert Winston had said it.

It is somewhat ironic that the Party Political Broadcast that complained about the broken promises by one politician was actually implying promises that it could not keep!

Political spin will always exist but I am saddened when figures of authority indulge in it as it will, inevitably, diminish that authority.