Monday, 9 January 2012

Slaughter & Hands row over £14 million H&F NHS cuts

Andy Slaughter and Greg Hands have form with each other, going back to their days on Hammersmith Council when it was a Labour run authority with Mr Slaughter at its head. So no surprise that their enmity has carried over into Parliament, and last week was no exception. I was sent details of £14 million of proposed cuts to our local health service under current Government plans - startling stuff and certainly worth reporting.

But the information seemed a little strange - it talked about "yesterday" and "this week" but then gave a date of November 24th. So I sought a counter view from the Tories in the form of Mr Hands, who is now a member of the Government as a Whip, and the picture seems a little different. I give both parties the chance to make their case below, and let you be the judge - this is more than a little political argy-bargy - health cuts generally cost lives.

Here's Mr Slaughter's team from last tuesday:

Labour has today revealed the hidden cost of the Government’s wasteful NHS reorganisation in Hammersmith and Fulham. New guidelines will force the local NHS to put £14,012,172 from their budget this year and next to pay for a costly NHS restructure that David Cameron repeatedly ruled out.

Andy Slaughter MP said: 

"These shocking new figures show the Government’s reorganisation is costing the NHS even more than we first feared. It is scandalous that they are telling our local NHS to hold back millions of pounds for their own reckless plans whilst thousands of nursing jobs are being axed. 

“Hammersmith and Fulham has already seen a 145% increase in the number of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for treatment since Cameron became Prime Minister. 
“Before his plans are even fully through Parliament, David Cameron's reorganisation is hitting the NHS hard and costs are now topping £3.4bn across the country for the first time. Spending this amount on an unnecessary reorganisation is totally unjustifiable when every single penny should be focused on maintaining standards of care. 

“At the election Cameron ruled out top-down NHS reorganisations. But only weeks after entering Number 10, he ripped up his own words and ordered the biggest and most dangerous upheaval of the NHS since it began.” 
The financial request is buried in the Government’s new NHS 'Operating Framework' document and takes the nationwide cost of the NHS reorganisation above previous estimates of £2-3bn, with Primary Care Trusts now holding back £3.44bn over two years.

Last Thursday evening leading doctors from the British Medical Association voted to call for an immediate halt to the Government’s costly and controversial Health Bill. 

Andy Slaughter MP added: 
“The people of Hammersmith and Fulham did not vote for it and our doctors, nurses and patients have already expressed huge concerns at the plans. Yet Cameron is ploughing on with his Health Bill, ignoring public and professional opinion. The time has come for him to listen, put the NHS first and drop his dangerous Bill.”
Labour is running a major national drive to unite the country in a call on the Government to drop its unwanted Health Bill and people are being urged to add their name to the Government online petition by Dr Kailash Chand at 

Labour’s Health team will be coming to Hammersmith and Fulham on Thursday 24th November and are visiting every English region, work-shadowing NHS staff and mobilising support for the campaign

But here's Team Greg Hands:


The press release from Andrew Slaughter is based on a template sent to Labour MPs and candidates last year. The references to “last Thursday evening” and a forthcoming Shadow Health team visit on “24 November” suggest that his office received it in late November 2011. 

Most of Mr Slaughter’s press release and quotes match word-for-word those provided by his colleagues at the beginning of December 2011. 

(Examples include: Kerry McCarthy, Yasmin Qureshi, Andrew Dismore, Gisela Stuart, Yvonne Fovargue.)

Labour hypocrisy 

Labour wrongly claimed that Primary Care Trusts are being asked to set aside 2 per cent of their budgets for NHS ‘reorganisation’. 

In fact, this is the third year in a row that the NHS has been asked to put aside 2 per cent of its allocation for non-recurrent expenditure. This was introduced by Labour in December 2009, when Andy Burnham was Health Secretary. 

The non-recurrent expenditure is designed to support service improvement. 

(Burnham source: Department of Health, Operating Framework, 16 December 2009, link.) 

Waiting times down 

Average waiting times in Hammersmith and Fulham are down from 9.2 weeks in May 2010 to 8.3 weeks in October 2011 (the latest figures available). Although the proportion of patients seen within 18 weeks has fallen slightly, from 94% to 87%, the overall trend is positive. 

Most patients are being seen quicker than under Labour. 

(Source: Department of Health, Adjusted Admitted Pathways Referral to Treatment, October 2011, link.)

Greg Hands MP said: 
“Andrew Slaughter has started 2012 by recycling last year’s lies from Labour HQ. He can’t even keep up with his colleagues, let alone the facts.

“This policy has nothing to do with the Health Bill – the last government did exactly the same thing. But unlike Labour, the Coalition is getting money to the front line. In fact, because we are reducing the money spent on administration in the NHS by a third, there will be an extra £1.5 billion every year to spend on patients.

“Waiting times are down and the budget is up. That’s the real situation in Hammersmith and Fulham.”
 So .... that's all clear then. Welcome to my world!


  1. I'm not that political and normally vote Labour but I just can't bare Andy Slaughter because I never seem to read or hear anything positive coming from him - it's always a complaint about what someone else has 'done'.

    He just seems to repeat a formula of seizing a bit of news and then linking it in a bad way to others, no matter who they are, even if there is absolutely no logic in the connection. It comes across lazy and cheap to me.

    Why do I never hear about what he has actually done?

  2. The problem is, that's true of the other lot as well, in fact all of them.

    It's always the previous administration's fault.......

    I don't particularly know about Andrew Slaughter, but this one as presented does seem a bit lazy!

  3. Dear Chris and readers,

    Greg Hands MP is correct that average waiting times in H&F have decreased from 9.2 weeks in May 2010 to 8.3 weeks in October 2011. He is also correct that the proportion of patients seen within 18 weeks has fallen from 94% to 87% however I wouldn’t describe this decline as “slight”.

    However he omits the fact that waiting times had decreased to 6.5 weeks in March 2011 and were consistently below 8 weeks for a period of 8 months. Therefore there has in fact been a rise of 28% between March 2011 and October 2011.

    To put this into patient numbers. In May 2010 just 44 patients were treated in over 18 weeks. In October 103 patients had their treatment in over 18 weeks – an increase of 134%.

    Apologies if I’ve included too many figures to illustrate my point. This isn’t simply an H&F problem. The fact is that waiting times have increased nationwide since the coalition government came into power and announced they were scrapping “Labour” targets. They have backtracked recently however a lot of damage has already been done.

    I would also like to point out that in the NHS constitution (passed in April 2010 by the departing Labour party) patients have a legal right to be treated within 18 weeks. In page 21 of the NHS constitution it says that essentially if the NHS can not treat a patient within 18 weeks they are legally obliged to pay for you to be treated at an alternative provider, most likely a private hospital.

    I would recommend to anyone who is on or knows somebody on a NHS waiting list to consider how long they have been waiting and if it is longer than 18 weeks to contact their hospital for private treatment.

    Waiting times statistics -

    NHS Constitution –