NHS could be like '1970s car factory' says health committee chairman

Doctors and patients need to embrace the need for major cultural change in the NHS - to prevent it becoming like a redundant 1970s car factory, according to Stephen Dorrell.

Mr Dorrell: 'Not a fan' of the Health Bill
Mr Dorrell: 'Not a fan' of the Health Bill

Three senior figures from the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties agreed on the need for drastic action at a debate on the future of the NHS this week.

Former health secretaries Mr Dorrell and Alan Milburn joined Baroness Shirley Williams to discuss changes to the service, at the Policy Exchange thinktank in Westminster.

Mr Dorrell, now chair of the House of Commons health select committee, said it was vital that all stakeholders needed to recognise the need for radical change in the face of increasing rates of long-term conditions and lack of resources.

‘In the 1970s, the Longbridge car plant became a byword for resistance to change and the protection of existing interests, rather than responding to the demands of customers.

‘Longbridge is now a housing estate and industrial estate and makes no motor cars.

‘We have to persuade all of the stakeholders – patients, service users, those who work in the health and social care system, and taxpayers – of the need for a process of change to meet the challenges ahead.’

Baroness Williams said the British public was ‘deeply in love with the NHS’ and would be resistant to the ‘huge cultural change’ that was now required.

She added: ‘It’s not just the public that likes the NHS, it’s a substantial part of the medical establishment as well, particularly in hospitals.

‘And the medical profession is a very conservative profession when it comes to major change.’

Mr Milburn said patients had to become more responsible for their own healthcare.

‘They have to become co-producers of their own care and not just passive recipients. For me, this is the biggest change of all. Because the growth in chronic disease challenges the very paradigm of healthcare that we have had for a century or more.’

None of the three politicians were enthusiastic about the Health Bill. Mr Milburn said it was a ‘car crash’, Mr Dorrell said he was ‘not a fan’, and Baroness Williams said there was no need to change the whole structure of the NHS.

Colin Cooper

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