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Saturday 15th June 2019

Doctors blocking reforms

15th June 2011

Writing for the Mail online, Dominic Sandbrook argues that we lack politicians to take on the opponents to NHS reform.


Doctors’ representatives were quick to pounce when the government tried to establish the NHS in 1948.

With current GP opposition, what happened in 1948 suggests that governments do not need to make a u-turn.

Aneurin Bevan met with opposition from wealthy doctors who were represented by the British Medical Association (BMA).

He stuck to his guns and they fell back on rhetoric that has become all too familiar.

Perhaps Andrew Lansley should take some solace in the fact that, compared with Bevan, he got off pretty lightly.

In 1948, the BMA voted nine-to-one to oppose Bevan’s plans but gradually the doctors backed down and by the time the NHS opened, on July 5, 1948, the BMA had meekly fallen into line.

The result was a genuinely national health service, which became the pillar of the post-war welfare state.

But over the years, politicians have struggled to reform the NHS as health professionals dug their heels in.

The story of Cameron’s health reforms has followed a depressingly familiar pattern as there remains the whiff of self-interest in the well-paid doctors’ opposition to reform.

Beyond that, however, is a deeper issue.

The Government’s customary formula - reckless assault followed by humiliating retreat - is a damning indictment.

The Tories had 13 years to devise radical, lasting reforms but they frittered those crucial years away in photo-opportunities and media stunts.

David Cameron must start winning some key battles, which means having the courage to take on the vested interests that defeated his predecessors.


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