As well as saying he was “incensed” by the Government’s recent attempt to blame A&E problems on GPs, Nicholson pointed out that the worsening economic picture since 2010 has prevented the QIPP agenda from making any difference.
Implicitly criticising the NHS reform policy, which was driven by the Department of Health, he said: “NHS England needs to involve the public in setting out a long-term strategy for the NHS.”
Other criticisms of the Government were implied in his praise for the NHS tribute in the Olympic Games opening ceremony (which Jeremy Hunt had tried to veto) and his statement that the two years following the 2010 election were “wasted” for the NHS.
Nicholson’s speech was reminiscent of his warning in late 2012 that the Government policy of “carpet bombing” the NHS with private providers would lead to “misery and failure”.
Noting the way in which the media (led by Hunt) had run with the idea that GPs were to blame for the overloading of A&E departments, he observed: “There is a sort of wheel that gets spun every so often, and on that wheel this week it is nurses. Let’s have a go at the nursing profession… But I was particularly, I think, incensed about some of the coverage in relation to general practice.”
Nicholson also acknowledged the futility of the ‘Nicholson challenge’, saying: “We talked about QIPP a few years ago thinking there will be no growth for a few years. There was an assumption that things were going to turn around in a few years – well they haven’t, so we need to make a long-term plan. NHS England needs to involve the public in setting out a long-term strategy for the NHS.”
The NHS reforms had wasted time and resources that should have been invested in transforming services, he said: “During the 2010 general election period, political parties went around the country making promises of no change. What happened when we got a new government was we wasted those two years where you can really make change happen. We didn’t talk about the really important changes that are required for the NHS.”