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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3 reader comments

  1. anon says:

    very interesting comments from you as always Ms MacDonald, hope ok to say and thank you as always.

    ….and the safe compassionate health care system in the world referred to by one of these characters can start by showing such care to those working in it, and to stop measures that will drive the caring people out of the NHS. dogma such as the right to demand to see a doctor whenever you like, 24/7 and other similar nonsense panders and rewards the louder more pushy patients (who given that they are like this may often by definition be less ill) to the detriment of the more sick and vulnerable who will not be able to behave like this, or those who choose not to act selfishly like this,

    but my feeling is that the troika you refer to my find themselves all out in the cold post election and those making the necessary decisions will be others,

    my gut instinct

    take care

  2. Philip Edwards says:


    I couldn’t care less about the political careers of these three. But I DO care about the health policies they promote.

    None of them convince me they are committed to completely ridding us of profiteering on the backs of sickness of our most vulnerable citizens.

    If any of them would name and get rid of Yank style carpet baggers in the NHS I might start to think they had some credibility.

    But how likely do you think that is?……………No, me neither.

  3. anon says:

    Dear Ms MacDonald

    thank you as always for all your reports, your great care for those suffering, your heart to see justice

    May I run something past you please, hopefully it will not been seen as it is not intended or I would not post this

    we are indeed blessed indeed by the work of doctors and nurses from other countries, so much so, but my concern is that taking these wonderful people from their own countries, I think 50-60% of trained nurses from Kenya leave (?) these figures may be wrong, I am very sorry if they are, but these hard pressed people need such people there?

    I do fully understand the reasons anyone would want to come to the UK, and while for example violence against women is so widespread, not perhaps in Kenya but certainly in places like South Africa, and India, then certainly anyone who can leave and wants to come here to work in our NHS must be allowed to do so, but other than that one reason I would suggest we need to stop taking these people and other richer countries too.

    I think I read in the 1960s in readers Digest (so it must be true) that the US Health system saved huge amounts of money by trained doctors and nurses going there from other countries, similarly to perhaps Australia by taking trained A/E consultants from……us!

    so perhaps in the long run the International community need to think carefully about both the merits and also the downside of the free movement of health workers around the world, with their training paid for by poorer countries to benefit and save money for the richer countries, doesn’t seem quite right?

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