21 Apr 2015

Hunt, Lamb, Burnham – and an NHS ménage à trois

Looking at Jeremy Hunt, Andy Burnham and Norman Lamb today at the #healthdebate, my mind turned to ménage a trois.

You know? There’s the married couple, they get on OK but there have been tensions, and so a third person comes a long to spice things up.

And so it is with this lot. Jeremy Hunt and Norman Lamb have worked alongside each other at the Department of Health for a while now and mostly it has been fine apart from the (my sources tell me) blazing rows over mental health.

Now Andy Burnham pops up and Norman Lamb is intrigued. He pays a compliment, saying it was right that Labour introduced maximum waiting times when they were in power. Although, not wanting to upset his current partner, he hastily adds that they forgot mental health.


Then Mr Lamb asks all the parties (Dr Julia Reid from Ukip was on the platform too, but she admitted it wasn’t her brief) to commit to a non-partisan commission on the future of the NHS and social care.

So Mr Burnham, perhaps sensing a way of driving a wedge between the married couple, says he will commit. But… only if the Lib Dems agree to repeal the health and social care act.

Mr Hunt, meanwhile, needing to lure back his miscreant partner, pays tribute to Mr Lamb. He said it had been a “privilege to work with Norman, who has campaigned very, very hard for mental health”. (Was that extra “very” a pointed way of saying he had been like a stuck record?)

He also said more needed to be done to tackle the stigma around mental health. By 2020, he added, we could be the most stigma-free country for mental health anywhere in the world.

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Goodness knows how that can be achieved but it will have warmed the cockles of Mr Lamb’s heart.

And then, before they went their separate ways, they each had a minute. I paraphrase (but if you desperately need to hear it from the horse’s mouths it is on the King’s Fund website)

JH says it will be the safest, most compassionate health care system in the world, which only the Conservatives can do that by having a strong economy to finance these changes.

AB says there is an urgent need to turn things around. “To pick up Norman’s phrase, we need to take the politics out of the NHS.”  He says they will repeal the health and social care act and give “hope” back to staff.

NL says there has to be a commitment to investment and it has to be done here and now. He says the parties have to bury their differences and come up with a new settlement for the health and care system, and  part of that has to be a total drive to achieve genuine equality for those suffering from mental ill health.

JR says Ukip is the only party which can fully fund their promises on the national health service without raising taxes and that they are committed to the NHS  remaining free at point of delivery from cradle to grave for all UK nationals.

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