Sir Tony Blair has a plan to fix the NHS.
On the 75th anniversary of the service, the prime minister from 1997 to 2007 is calling for a radical change in the health service he once managed.
Warning that the NHS will “continue down a path of decline” without sweeping reforms, Blair today calls on the government to embrace a technological revolution to reshape its relationship with patients and make much more use of private healthcare providers to reduce delivery times. Standby.
The recommendations come in a report for the Tony Blair Institute for Global Changeof which Tony Blair is chief executive, entitled “Fit for the future: a modern, sustainable NHS that provides accessible and personalized care for all”.
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“The NHS now requires fundamental reform or eventually support will wane. As in the 1990s, the NHS must either change or decline,” Blair writes in the report’s foreword.
The former prime minister continues to support the private sector playing a broader role, including in the provision of high-volume, low-complexity services such as dermatology.
The six areas of reform highlighted by Blair are as follows:
- Putting patients in control of their own health
- Create new access routes for services and providers
- Leverage the power of genomics and other “omics” platforms to personalize care:
- Create a locally run and self-improvement system
- Invest in new and more efficient infrastructure to provide better care
- Invigorate and modernize the NHS workforce:
What is clear, while Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer meet in Westminster Abbey to read prayers and extol the virtues of the NHS, the former prime minister is involved in an act of serious apostasy.
While he claims to “safeguard the founding principles of Beveridge and Bevan”, his proposal that private companies should be allowed to sell services through a strengthened NHS application will cause bewilderment across the political spectrum.
Arguably more controversial is his proposal that NHS patients should be able to pay to speed up access to healthcare. The Tony Blair Institute report calls for a new “partnership between the private health sector and the NHS”, including “co-pay options” that allow consumers to pay for treatment faster.
Tony Blair is also not the only major political player calling for sweeping reform of the NHS on his 75th birthday. Sajid Javid, health secretary from 2021 to 2022, warned yesterday that patients in Britain were getting sicker as a result of the way the NHS is set up, Blair agrees today that “the NHS must change or decline”. He says the NHS “is falling further and further behind other healthcare systems” and warns that more patients will go private if it doesn’t change.
Javid has called for a royal commission on the NHS model and has previously suggested that patients should be charged to see a GP. He argued that the NHS was “frozen in time” and that research was needed to compare it with models used in comparable countries.
But Blair’s call for “courageous political leadership” – supplemented by Javid’s pronouncements – does not appear to have been answered. There has already been significant rejection of Blair’s proposals by the Labor and Conservative parties. In fact, in one piece for the timesHealth Secretary Steve Barclay says the Conservatives are “fully committed” to keeping the service free at the point of care.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay has insisted the NHS can thrive without a drastic overhaul, insisting it needs “continuous evolution, not one big moment”.
Ignoring calls from Javid and Blair, he explains: “It is important that the NHS changes and adapts in response to this, and improves technology and medical advances, but this requires constant evolution, not one big moment.”
Instead, Barclay boasts of the government’s workforce plan, which is backed by more than £2.4bn and sets out how the government seeks to address existing vacancies and recruit and retain hundreds of thousands more employees over the next 15 years.
Perhaps more pertinently, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has said he “disagrees” with Blair’s suggestion that some people should be able to pay to use NHS services. The shadow health secretary said the UK “already has a two-tier system”, adding that “people who can afford it are paying to go private and those who can’t are being left behind”.
But “Change is never easy,” as Blair said in his institute’s report.