In terms of experience and knowledge about the NHS, this is no time for a novice.
Dr Kailash Chand OBE, to put it politely, is old enough to be Dr Dan Poulter’s elder and wiser uncle. Whereas Poulter gives the impression of being a hapless junior on a ward round who hasn’t had enough time to tabulate all the recent full blood counts, Chand behaves like a senior consultant who is also worried about whether the patient had a good night sleep.
The problem for the Labour Party is wondering what on earth they have ended up with. At first, Labour promised to abolish an internal market, only to re-introduce one in the form of the iconic ‘purchaser provider split’. Chand is more than aware of budget sheets being crippled by the private finance initiative loan repayments, even though this policy was introduced to improve the infrastructure of the service.
It is all a curious mystery how the Labour Party became so keen on harmonising procurement legislation with Europe. It could of course be coincidental that Tony Blair was President of the Council of Europe for July – December 2005, just before the Public Contracts Regulations popped out in 2006. It is equally unclear to what extent New Labour was keeping the bed warm for the private providers who wanted a slice of the “NHS nooky”.
Labour cannot be blamed for wishing to campaign on the NHS, but the NHS chimaera that exists today cannot be said to be divorced from the policies introduced by Labour in its period of government. The NHS, overall, has suffered, as Chand puts it himself, from ‘death by about thousand privatisations’.
I can never remember whether Kailash Chand has been a member of Labour for over 25 years, or has been a GP for over 25 years. But either way it doesn’t matter. Both facts are on the public record, so is Chand’s commitment to fighting the current Coalition government on policy which he claims vociferously is not in the best interest of patients.
I, of course, like the fact that he regularly contributes to the medical press, and has held various offices of responsibility; but I should like the Labour Party to make full use of his formidable intellect, preferably with the Labour Party in government from next year; and his enormous undoubted popularity with the driver of his democratic ambition, people who are fed up to the back teeth with his Government.
I don’t happen to agree with Dr Gordon Brown on some things, such as wishing to be so intensely relaxed about the City of London (I am of course vicariously attacking Brown when this was a remark made by Lord Mandelson).
But as regards Kailash Chand’s full potential – no doubt there will be lots of new talent next year in think tanks and so forth, but this is possibly no time for a novice. Chand needs to be at the heart of decision making.