Just in case you were left with any doubts that the so-called ‘listening period’ was a genuine attempt to er…listen, then another dose of evidence has come to light, that will surely cure such crazy thoughts.
The evidence comes in the form of a post written on the blog by the head of the ‘Choice and Competition’ working group of the NHS Future Forum, Sir Stephen Bubb.
Posted on the 7th June 2011, under the title ‘Of one mind!’ Mr Bubb was announcing the end of the working group’s role in the Health bill ‘pause’, by producing the ‘Choice and Competition report.
In the opening paragraph of the post, Bubb produces this extraordinary confession:
‘Just as I was signing off our Panel's report on " Delivering real choice" I get sent a copy of the PM speech announcing he is accepting many of our key recommendations (although we haven't actually given him the report yet!) His comments on the role of competition which can drive choice and better quality is spot on. As also are the comments on the need for integration of services in health and social care and on the role of Monitor.…I am unclear why he thought it was a good idea to pre announce acceptance of much of our Report, but it is welcome.’
Readers of this blog, will already know that the so-called ‘listening exercise’ was a sham thanks to the appearance of a document emanating from a private healthcare lobby group called NHS Partners Network (NHSPN). The memo, which was meant for the network member’s eyes only, revealed how Sir Stephen Bubb met in secret with the director of the NHSPN, David Worskett. At the meeting Worskett and Bubb had ‘agreed on the approach he (Bubb) would take, what the key issues are, and how to handle the politics.’ According to the memo, ‘he had not deviated from this for a moment.’
This statement, which clearly implicated Bubb as a collaborator on behalf of the private healthcare group, was just part a series of meetings that were all aimed at increasing access to private health companies.
The NHS Partners Network according to their 2007/08 Annual report, were heavily involved in lobbying early on, having met then shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley in 2007 to discuss the ‘Conservative party draft bill’. In October 2010, before parliament had seen the bill, Simon Burns (the Minister for Health), Earl Howe, and Andrew Lansley’s Special Advisor, Bill Morgan, attended two meetings with Worskett. In the meeting, Earl Howe offered a ‘depiction’ of the ‘Government position’, that meant ‘“choice” was a non-negotiable.’
Some democracy. Not only did a lobby director get reassured on competition remaining in the bill before it had been discussed in parliament, but the head of a forum who was meant to be ‘listening’, had made an agreement with the same organisation that had aided Lansley with the bill’s draft in the early days. Then to top it all off, we now can see that before the report had even been signed off, the Prime Minister’s speech had accepted the recommendations.
It is not just the so-called ‘listening exercise’ that is a sham, but our democracy too.