Competition and choice in the NHS
Yesterday 62 Labour MPs voted against the Government's "flagship hospital reforms" and a further 35 abstained (report, November 20). As an ordinary member of the Labour Party I believe they were mistaken.
Many of the rebels have objected to the principle of competition and choice within the health service. Yet in 1995 the Labour Party agreed a new Clause Four of its constitution where it established the principle that "the enterprise of the market and the rigour of competition are joined with the forces of partnership and co-operation".
Those MPs who have rejected the NHS reforms are still bound by this core principle.
Critics also claim there has been no proper consultation. But while not mentioning foundation hospitals as such, the 2001 election manifesto gave a commitment to reform the NHS in line with the current proposals. To quote the manifesto:
"New Labour believes that the NHS needs radical reform to fulfil its founding principle (and) if it is to be designed around the needs of patients...We will create a new type of hospital...We will work with the private sector to use spare capacity, where it makes sense...We will allow successful NHS hospitals to take over failing ones".
All the rebel MPs were elected on a reforming manifesto that targeted the NHS. In rejecting these reforms they must explain how pledges made to their constituents in 2001 could be better delivered.