Shadow health secretary John Healey has said it is “largely unlikely” that the aims of the ‘information revolution’ will be achieved if the coalition fails to invest in it.
Speaking to eHealth Insider at the King’s Fund, where he was responding to the Health and Social Care Bill published on Wednesday, Healey said: “It’s hard to see how you significantly step up the information available for patients – the way that they get and receive that information and use that information – if [the coalition] are not prepared to invest in its development.”
He said the lack of a budget for the forthcoming information strategy for the NHS would be “a big obstacle in achieving some of the aims that they say they want to do. So while it may not be impossible it’s largely unlikely.”
When it published ‘Liberating the NHS: an Information Revolution’, the Department of Health said there would be no money for the changes outlined in the subsequent strategy. Instead, it said they should be self-financing.
However, the lack of cash has also been criticised by many of the organisations responding to the consultation. Both the NHS Confederation and UKCHIP identified a lack of investment as major stumbling blocks.
Criticising other aspects of the Health Bill, Healey said now is not the time to rip up NHS structures.
He argued "forced competition" would introduce “fundamental flaws and far reaching risks” and that competition based on price would lead to fragmention and cherry-picking by new providers.
He also raised concerns that GP commissioning consortia will no longer be public bodies and will have none of the obligation to publish information, particularly financial information, that their predecessors have had. “We will see commercial in confidence stamped on much of the NHS,” he said.
Healey said that the Labour Party will “oppose the full blown combination of organisation and ideological change that is set out in this legislation,” which he referred to as “the prime minister’s biggest broken promise.”
However, he admitted: “This is a government that will railroad this though. It’s gone so far in terms of policy that it will do so in terms of legislation."