Lansley compares Health Bill fight to Bevan's bid to found NHS

Health secretary Andrew Lansley has compared his bid to force through NHS reforms in the face of growing opposition to Aneurin Bevan's efforts to establish the NHS in 1948.

Mr Lansley claimed he was ‘not the sort of politician who delights in the sound of gunfire’.
Mr Lansley claimed he was ‘not the sort of politician who delights in the sound of gunfire’.

His comments drew a furious response from BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum, who hit out at Mr Lansley’s ‘inflammatory remarks’ and urged him to listen to warnings about the NHS reforms.

In a speech on Thursday, Mr Lansley rejected calls for the Health Bill to be withdrawn, but claimed he was ‘not the sort of politician who delights in the sound of gunfire’.

He said the NHS needed reform and he was determined to press ahead to achieve it.

‘Look back to 1948 when the BMA denounced Aneurin Bevan as "a would-be Führer" for wanting them to join a national health service,’ he said.

‘And Bevan himself described the BMA as "politically poisoned people".

‘A survey at the time showed only 10% of doctors backed the plans. But where we would be today if my predecessors had caved in?’

Dr Meldrum said: ‘It is a shame that the health secretary has decided to repeat a seventy-year-old myth.

‘The BMA called for a national medical service decades before the government established the NHS in 1948.

‘Doctors’ opposition to parts of what was proposed at the time was related to the detail of the then government’s initial plans for how the system would operate, not to the principle of a publicly funded and comprehensive service that was free at the point of use for all patients.

‘The government’s current reforms threaten to fragment and disrupt patient care across our health service. The secretary of state should refrain from making inflammatory remarks and instead listen to the warnings coming not just from the BMA, but from a wide range of healthcare professionals and patients.’

GPC member Dr David Wrigley said the health secretary was wrong to compare himself to Bevan. 'What he’s trying to do is the opposite of what Bevan did. Bevan set up a health service free at the point of use. He’s introducing reforms that are doing exactly the reverse of that.'

Nick Bostock

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