Medicopolitical Digest

Government survives attack on NHSBMA prepares for devolutionCharter launched for adult mental health patientsNon-principals launch associationWork begins on osteopaths statutory body

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 01 February 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:381

Government survives attack on NHS

The government brought sick MPs by ambulance to the House of Commons last week to ensure a majority at the end of a debate on the health service. A Labour motion expressing concern at the “grave situation” in the NHS was defeated by seven votes–319 to 312–although the government no longer has an overall Commons majority. Defeat could have precipitated a general election.

The Labour attack was led by shadow health secretary Chris Smith who asserted that the NHS was in a serious crisis. He gave examples of patients being kept on trolleys for up to two and a half days, and of children being denied intensive care. Mr Smith promised that a Labour government would rescue and renew the NHS, although it is committed to no extra funding. Locality commissioning would replace single practice GP fundholding. Savings of £100m on bureaucratic costs would end and strategic thinking and preparation would be restored.

The health secretary, Stephen Dorrell, admitted that since Christmas the NHS had been under pressure. Because of extremely cold weather and a high incidence of flu, emergency cases were double the normal. The service had acted rationally by deferring less …

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