Miliband in NHS whistleblower call
Labour leader Ed Miliband has called on NHS staff and patients to hold the Government to account for difficulties resulting from its controversial reforms to the health service.
In a speech to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) conference in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, Mr Miliband launched a Labour initiative called NHS Check which will allow people to report online on problems faced by hospitals, clinics and family doctors arising from Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's shake-up.
Seeking to capitalise on the coalition's fraught relations with NHS workers, Mr Miliband hailed nurses as "the defenders of the health service" against market-oriented reforms which he said would divert resources from the front line and lead to disruption, fragmentation and longer waits for treatment.
After Mr Lansley was heckled and jeered by the RCN conference, Mr Miliband accused ministers of refusing to listen to legitimate concerns. Despite reservations expressed by nurses to the NHS shake-up, the Government had "ploughed on regardless".
Mr Miliband urged NHS health and wellbeing boards - which will have strategic oversight of local commissioning - to resist new charges for treatment and ensure patients come before profits.
"The Government have been acting like they are the masters, not the servants, of the NHS. They are not the masters. Not this government. Not any government," he said. "I can't promise that we will always agree about everything. But what I will never do is what this Government did: dismiss you as just a 'vested interest'. You were not a vested interest. You were the defenders of the health service."
Mr Miliband said he wants to "forge a partnership" with the RCN to address the long-term challenges facing the NHS.
His speech comes after Mr Lansley received a rough reception from the RCN on Monday. He was laughed at by members of the audience after saying nurses should tell superiors if staffing levels were not safe. Some in the crowd shouted "liar" after the Health Secretary claimed clinical staffing levels had increased on his watch.
David Cameron's official spokesman said the Prime Minister had full confidence in Mr Lansley.