Ed Miliband: Conservatives have secret plan to reorganise NHS after election

Labour will ask why 2014 report by former Marks & Spencer boss Stuart Rose has not been published, even though it has been in Tory hands since December


 The report by the Conservative peer Lord Rose, pictured, was, according to a parliamentary written answer, submitted to the health secretary on 23 December. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Ed Miliband will on Monday try to put the NHS at the heart of the runup to polling day by asking the Conservatives to explain why they have not published a plan – commissioned by the government from a former supermarket executive – for another re-organisation of NHS bureaucracy after the election.

Labour is also highlighting a letter published in the Guardian from US doctors warning that, on the current course, the NHS is on a “slippery slope” to pay-as-you-go healthcare.

Miliband, who will campaign alongside cookery writer Delia Smith on Monday, is highlighting an unpublished report commissioned by the Department of Health (DH) from the former Marks & Spencer chief executive Stuart Rose, a Tory peer.

The report was passed to ministers well before the election purdah period during which announcements cannot be made, but has not been published.

The Conservatives said the report had been delayed because the remit had been widened to take account of the NHS five-year forward view.

The report is understood to focus not on controversial issues, such as the contracting out of health services, but on the excessively complex NHS bureaucracy, some of which may have been worsened by changes introduced by the previous health secretary, Andrew Lansley.

Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, will be speaking alongside Miliband at an event in Brighton on Monday.

He will tell voters: “David Cameron should come clean with the British people about his plans for the NHS after the election. He commissioned a major report on how to change the way the health service is run but has buried the findings.

“They won’t tell us what’s in it. They won’t tell us what they plan to do with it. They won’t tell us what they plan to do with the NHS. But we do know one thing. We know who wrote it: the Conservative peer, Lord Rose.

“Lord Rose may be good at running supermarkets. But I say to David Cameron: you can’t run the NHS like a supermarket, we don’t want a supermarket health service, so publish this report and show us what is in your secret plan.”

The Rose report was commissioned by the DH in February 2014 and, according to a parliamentary written answer, was submitted to the health secretary on 23 December, four months ago.

In February this year, the Financial Times reported that one individual who had been in meetings in which the report was discussed said it had been put on “the back-burner of the back-burner”.

The article said that one reason for the delay could be that “a detailed prescription from a private sector leader could be particularly sensitive”.

In March, the Observer reported that Jeremy Hunt was facing allegations of a “politically motivated coverup” as the report remained unpublished.

The Tory chair of the health select committee, Sarah Wollaston, said: “It is not right that reports paid for out of public money are not made available to the public on such vital issues as soon as possible, particularly ahead of a general election.”

Wollaston talked of “uncomfortable information being withheld”.

The reality may be that the report is largely uncontroversial, but Rose is known to be critical of the current management structure of the NHS – and anything that smacks of reorganisation will raise alarm within the NHS.

But, politically, it is damaging for the Conservative-led government to be accused days before polling day of not publishing a report that it commissioned.

The US medical experts who wrote to the Guardian said: “We express concern over recent movements toward transferring more and more services to for-profit corporations in your healthcare system, and measures that encourage the development of a self-pay market for care.

“Access to treatment should not depend on whether someone can spare the money.

“While some may say the changes in England have so far only been at the margins, it is the risk of a slippery slope that should cause concern.”

Miliband himself will describe the choice between two visions: more privatisation, reorganisation and longer waits with a Tory second term, or Labour’s plan to protect and improve the NHS by putting the right values back at its heart.

He will say: “In the final few days of this general election campaign, the future of the NHS is at risk in the way it hasn’t been for a generation.”



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