David Cameron’s No 10 policy shake-up hit new controversy today when it emerged his new health adviser had advocated deep NHS cuts and even charges to see a family doctor. Nick Seddon was hired from the right-leaning think tank Reform to advise the Prime Minister on health and social care as part of the new team led by Boris Johnson’s brother, Jo Johnson.
But Labour said Mr Seddon had “little belief” in the traditional NHS model because he had called for frontline staff cuts, budget reductions and charges to patients.
Last July he was quoted by the BBC as saying there was international evidence that charging patients for services such as seeing a GP could be extremely effective.
In a 2010 article, he said 150,000 NHS jobs should be axed and criticised Mr Cameron’s promise to raise spending higher. “Oddly, however, the coalition has promised to increase spending on the biggest departmental budget – the NHS – when they should be seeking to decrease state spending in this area,” he wrote.
He dismissed cuts in NHS administration as having only a “minor impact”, implying that savings should come from the frontline. “Achieving this will require removing the moratorium on hospital closures – reform has calculated that as many as 32,000 hospital beds should be closed – and reducing the NHS headcount by at least 150,000 jobs.”
In a 2010 article he argued for healthcare to be “largely funded by government … but organised outside of government, by insurance companies and other organisations, answering only to patients.”
Before joining Reform, Mr Seddon worked at private health company Circle, which runs the first NHS hospital to be privately managed.
Labour health spokesman Andrew Gwynne said:
“Another revealing appointment in Number 10. After the old Etonians, come the NHS privateers.
“David Cameron has appointed an NHS advisor who clearly has little belief in it. He wants to cuts its budget, sack the staff and charge the patients.
“The Prime Minister has now brought him into the heart of Government – nothing could show a greater disregard for NHS patients and staff.”
Asked by the Evening Standard if he would be advising the PM to impose patient charges and NHS cuts, Mr Seddon said his work had yet to be clarified. “I’m hugely excited about the broad scope of the role,” he said. “The exact work I do will be for Jo Johnson and the PM to clarify.”
This article appeared in the London Evening Standard on 9th May 2013