Holding back the cheers

A quick follow-up to Rich’s post yesterday about health secretary Andrew Lansley’s response to the resignation of the chairman of NHS London, Sir Richard Sykes. Sykes has resigned because he is said to be furious about Lansley’s decision to scrap a review of healthcare in London.

In his post, Rich takes Lansley to task for saying “…neither the government nor NHS London should dictate the decisions made”, and asks who then the minister believes should be in the driving seat.

Now I must admit that, shamefully, I know very little of Lansley’s record and will bow to Rich’s assessment as to whether he’s generally a scoundrel or a relative good ‘un, but I do find myself in the curious position of having to defend the health secretary on this count.

NHS London is a strategic health authority with absolutely no direct link to local people, and as far as I’m concerned it really shouldn’t be dictating anything, and certainly not major healthcare reform. In this I’m in agreement with Lansley, who is quoted in the Guardian article reporting the story of Sykes’ resignation as saying:

When I announced last week the halting of Healthcare for London changes, I also issued a challenge to NHS London to engage patients, GPs as commissioners, and local authorities, more directly in putting plans in place.

Lansley is arguing that rather than being driven by a bunch of unelected bureaucrats, any changes to the capital’s healthcare system should be determined in light of the views and needs of Londoners themselves, and the bodies that do have a democratic mandate: local councils.

Now of course this could well be empty rhetoric from Lansley, and we’ll have to see whether or not the principle of people power is upheld, but surely he’s setting the right tone? And as for other early indications of the government’s commitment to democratic localism in healthcare, I can’t see how anyone could argue that the coalition’s decision to strip away the powers held by strategic health authorities constitutes a blow to democracy.

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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

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