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Editorial Wednesday 5 October 2011: Fact me! Andrew Lansley is doing the right thing

At the Conservative Party Conference, the hall was considerably less that half-full for Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's speech yesterday. A cynic might begin to doubt that they are, as claimed, the party of the NHS.


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At times, during a health fringe event on Monday night, I was beginning to feel sorry for Andrew Lansley (saviour, liberator). He didn't look well. He also got a bit of a jolt from chair Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News, who asked him "what does it feel like being briefed against by Number 10?"

Briefing against ministers is, of course, a Bad Old New Labour habit. This is the new politics, remember. Newman would know about such briefings.

Sympathy evaporated promptly enough as Lansley grew typically queroulous in response to questions he didn't like. He told the event, "I resent people who doubt our commitment to the NHS".

The morning of Mr Lansley's speech dawned with an open letter from 400 public health doctors to the House Of Lords asking them to reject the Health Bill. Mr Lansley told the broadcast media that this was motivated by political reasons rather than professional ones.

Mr Cameron, meanwhile, suggested to the Telegraph that they support the reforms, which, as Martin Beckford reports, came as a surprise to several prominent signatories.

The again, Mr Cameron also gave the Responsibility Deal and nudge nonsense a kick in the nuts by suggesting that he's amenable to a lard tax.

This is of course a massive U-turn on the whole proposed public health philosophy on offer - you can read our original reaction to the public health White Paper here.

Mr Lansley's speech
As he thanked delegates for the tiny standing ovation on his arrival, it was impossible not to reflect that Mr Lansley's brief status as a darling of the Tory right was all about the Bill amendments giving the Lib Dems much rhetoric and little substance in change.

You can read Mr Lansley's speech here.

So what does it say?

'I knew I was right', basically.

Here are Our Saviour And Liberator's messages.

People use the NHS. Nurses are good, and can lead inspections for the CQC (which admits it can't do its job).

To be fair, there were some good bits. Doctors will have to be able to speak English (ridiculously, this is still a real if not huge issue). More outcome information will be published.

Back to the politics: real-terms increases highlighted (and inflation ignored). Labour would have cut the NHS (and are doing in Wales). More doctors and less managers is good.

97% of GPs think the reforms are so good they have formed or joined a CCG (don't mention lifeboats and sinking ships).

Responsibility Deal blah unit labelling alcohol blah wibble pffurt.

Average waiting times were down in July. 111 is coming, not that there's any demonstrable need for it. The Cancer Drugs Fund proves how highly we think of NICE, and Labour oppose it. The NHS in Wales is shit.

"We know, in Wales or in England - you simply can't trust Labour on the NHS. In England, we are delivering for patients; while Labour just use the NHS as a political football.
We won't let them; we'll always fight for the NHS". (How is bashing the NHS in Wales not using it as a political football? Answers on a copy of the Coalition Agreement.)

Me, Simon Burns and some other nonentities have "fought together this year. Against misinterpretation, misinformation and misrepresentation from Labour and the left-wing unions about the plans we set out in our Health Bill. Bringing change to the NHS has not been easy, but it has been the right thing to do". Then we asked the Future Forum what was wrong with doing the right thing.

Personal budgets ahoy.

Just the facts, ma'am
What else? "Labour and their trade union puppet-masters can push out their ludicrous lies all they like, and we will fight back with the facts".

Ahem. Ahem. And indeed, ahem. In the slogan of The Day Today, 'fact times importance equals news'.

"David's personal commitment to the NHS has never wavered. You all know my commitment to the National Health Service. While I am Secretary of State, the NHS will never be fragmented, privatised or undermined. I am personally committed to an NHS which gives equal access, and excellent care. I am passionate about improving the quality of care through the NHS.

"And I know the NHS will take the freedoms and opportunities we offer to provide healthcare to the people of this country amongst the very best in the world.

"That's our priority. Our mission. My passion".

That's how it ended.