Reflecting on 60 years of the NHS – Lansley

Conservative Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, knows only too well about the ins and outs of the NHS; after all, he was brought up with it, thanks to his father’s long, illustrious career working within the British healthcare system. Thomas Lansley was one of the first employees to enter into work with the NHS back in 1948, and continued his career up until his retirement. Because of this family interest, Lansley is perhaps best placed to answer the question of whether the NHS has indeed changed beyond all recognition since its birth.

Lansley’s father began employment in the NHS as a medical lab technician at Highlands Hospital in Winchmore Hill, North London, which has now disbanded, before continuing to East Ham Memorial Hospital, where his career finally drew to a close. Both of these establishments are long gone, however the legacy lives on.

Lansley’s childhood was entwined with the NHS, and as his father’s career progressed into a founding member of the Council for Professions Supplementary to Medicine, as well as Chair of the Institute of Medical Laboratory Scientists. Lansley’s childhood home often played host to visiting lab scientists, all meeting to develop their knowledge through networking and sharing information.

Throughout Lansley Senior’s career, the NHS was stable and was famed for providing high quality healthcare to the population of Britain, something the rest of the world pined for, and it was in these years that the NHS was the top healthcare system in the world. What changed?

In Lansley’s eyes this is down to bureaucracy within the NHS, something he is keen to see an end to.

Following in his father’s footsteps with a keen interest in the NHS, Lansley attended the 50th anniversary celebrations, and bemoaned the fact that he feels the stability that the NHS original had has been lost, and has been overtaken by other countries’ healthcare systems, stating that “there now seems to be a constant re-organisation, and we constantly hear how we are being overtaken by other countries”.

This is something he would like to see stopped.

So, what can change?

Lansley accompanied Prime Minster, David Cameron, to Trafford General Hospital on 2 January, the first hospital to be part of the NHS back in 1948, where Cameron spoke in-depth about his vision for high quality NHS care, free of bureaucracy, and firmly putting patient care first. Lansley stated, “what worries me is that while it is important to define the principles of equity, that people should have access to healthcare according to their need and not their ability to pay, unless the NHS is capable of delivering excellence, the pressures for people to provide themselves will create problems. If it’s not good quality care, then equity will not suffice. We have got to find ways in which the NHS satisfies those needs”.

Lansley was also keen to stress that in order to meet this target, the government are not keen for a shake-up of the current system, in terms of another re-organisation, and would like to seek ways to do this without major upheaval. A few suggested ways to do this is by NHS boards being responsible for commissioning, ridding the current system of its bureaucracy, allowing hospitals to get back to being solely focused on patient care, away from the bureaucratic nature.

The burning question however is, does Lansley believe the NHS has changed beyond all recognition compared to the days his childhood was so intrinsically linked to it? He believes that, in essence, no, it hasn’t.