Milburn pledges unity over NHS

31 Jan 02
Health Secretary Alan Milburn this week hammered home the prime minister's backing for NHS workers, claiming that staff, patients and the government were on the same side.

01 February 2002

Following the controversy over the care of 94-year-old Rose Addis at London's Whittington Hospital, the government sought to portray Conservative and media criticism as an attack on NHS workers.

Opening a conference of 150 doctors, nurses and patients on January 29 called to discuss patient choice in heart operations, Milburn said: 'Today's event gives the lie to those who say that somehow you've got to choose between supporting staff or supporting patients. You cannot be on the side of NHS patients unless you are on the side of NHS staff. You cannot be on the side of NHS patients unless you are on the side of NHS investment and reform.

'We stand shoulder to shoulder with those working in the NHS and those using it in wanting to improve services for patients.'

On January 25, the prime minister said stories about the health service were 'tomorrow's fish and chip wrapper', but they did lasting damage to the reputation of doctors and nurses.

Shadow health secretary Liam Fox replied that government policy had led to declining standards, leading Tony Blair to raise the political stakes significantly. Speaking to the Sunday People, he said: 'If the NHS is not basically fixed by the next election, then I am quite happy to suffer the consequences. I am quite willing to be held to account by the voters if we fail.'

Unions welcomed the change in tone. Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: 'It is timely that the prime minister has seen the sense of what we have been saying for years – that you cannot denigrate public service workers and get a world-class service.'

British Medical Association chairman Ian Bogle said: 'It is good to see the prime minister publicly recognising that doctors and nurses need support to deliver the best for patients.'


Did you enjoy this article?