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Confused? I am.

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Laura Kuenssberg | 14:48 UK time, Wednesday, 22 August 2007

More confusion for the Conservatives today. After disputes over their claims on potential department closures at district hospitals yesterday, the plot thickens.

Andrew LansleyOne hospital in Telford received an apology from the party today for it being included on their list. Except, in the last hour there has been an 'un-apology' from Andrew Lansley, the shadow health minister, saying he stands by the claim and saying the apology shouldn't have been made after all.

That's after what the party described as a 'clerical error' over naming the Altrincham General when they meant to name the Trafford. And after an apology made by a shadow minister over the inclusion of one of his local hospitals in the lists that was clarified during the day yesterday. The same MP, Henry Bellingham, then later said he meant to apologise for there not being more of his local hospitals on the list. That's not to mention the complaints from some of the hospitals themselves.

Confused? I certainly am. Certainly the party has had a lot of attention for this campaign and as some Conservative bloggers have pointed out, it has kept the issue of potential downgrading of departments in district hospitals in the news for longer than it might have been otherwise. But I think that is a pretty optimistic view of the saga. And Central Office is clearly frustrated by events.

This was meant to be a tough campaign that took the fight to the government. It's ended up as a row between the Conservatives and hospital trusts who objected to the claims and to the fact that they were not all contacted before information about them was put into the public domain. The muddle over the facts has damaged the credibility of the message. That doesn't do much for Mr Cameron's efforts to re-anchor his party to the centre ground or calm the nerves of some in the party who've had doubts about his leadership.


  • 1.
  • At 04:42 PM on 22 Aug 2007,
  • Andrew Jones wrote:

The governments NHS closure program is interesting as I note Labour are not attacking the substance that some Strategic Health authorities have earmarked closure, relocation or specialisation of resources. A very short cited strategy by Labour to attack a mistake of which Hospital will close. This is because at least the Tory intervention has clarified by Labour�s rebuttal; the sites which will close or will not close. This allows the Tories to intensify their campaign in the seats, where cuts and services are being decimated. It is interesting to see the Tories setting the agenda again as the two main issues of the day are youth crime and the governments NHS closure program. The PM in contrast is "detached" and seeking a quite tete a tete with the German Chancellor.


If the Tories are 'wrong' about eight hospitals that means they are right about closures in 21.

Why not ask a Labour Minister about it?

No wonder the Labour Party and their mates in the media are focusing on minor errors.

  • 3.
  • At 05:43 PM on 22 Aug 2007,
  • uncivilisedservant wrote:

Confused? It's clear to me. Cameron is on to something and Labour doesn't like it. Hospital downgrades or even closures are very important at the local level and Brown interferes at his peril. My local A&E could be Royal Surrey? Oops no it's under threat. Chichester? Oops no it's under threat. Worthing? Oops no it's under threat. Haywards Heath Oops no it's under threat.Frimley? Where the h... is that? Ah yes found it. Its 28 miles away and 1 hour 20 in the rush hour. I'm dead!.

  • 4.
  • At 06:02 PM on 22 Aug 2007,
  • ACT wrote:

The Tories are floundering over the NHS. Their problems are rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of what the NHS is: to them it is a 'burden' which cannot be supported and a barrier to tax cuts; to the rest of the country the NHS is one of the modern benchmarks of British civilisation. They are cunning enough to see that appearing to be NHS-friendly will win them votes but we all know there is no substance - no belief in what they are saying. Cameron is trying to build caring credibility, but the 'suspicion' this arouses in his own party shows that most tories would happily sacrifice universal healthcare to help pay their children's school fees.

This is what happens when you take a very complicated situation, where the are hundreds of pros and an equal number of cons and try and boil it down into a vote winning sound bite.

You get a parlour room farce.

If the government were proposing to say, close down every hospital in one area, the Tories would have a point.

But that is not the situation.

Many medical professionals have been saying that they need more and more varied specialised services. This is a common problem across the world.

The government is trying to address this. Now, whether they are getting it right or wrong is another problem. But trying to take a very complicated set of reviews and just saying "See, I told you they wanted to kill the NHS" is bound to back fire.

And it has. Big time!

  • 6.
  • At 06:11 PM on 22 Aug 2007,
  • DaveC wrote:

Opposition parties always do this when seeking to guide the news agenda. Nowhere in any of the information cascaded by the tories over the last few days have I seen anything more substantial than "threatened" reviews of locals services and public consultation exercises.

Do the tories really want a never-changing NHS whose hospitals' roles are never subject to re-alignment based on the needs of patients or the local areas? Or do they want changes to be made without reviews, or without public consultation? I wouldn't have thought so.

This assumption that a review of a hospital's services is somehow always a code for "we want to cut/close it" is typical of the knee-jerk politics that has given us the society and public services (not to mention the politicians) that we have now.

Let's face facts. The needs of local people will be a constantly changing thing, so the NHS cannot stand still if it hopes to be effective, especially as there will never, ever be enough money in the service to do everything that we would like it to do.

Scaremongering reviews and changes as cuts is something that all political parties do when in opposition (remember Labour's "24 hours to save the NHS"?) only to be confronted with the reality that it is impossible for the NHS to ever be everything that we want it to be when they get into Government.

  • 7.
  • At 06:36 PM on 22 Aug 2007,
  • Garry wrote:

I believe the labour spokesperson's words yesterday were 'a reconfiguration of services'. Just another word for cuts. They have not issued a denial nor could they.
The BBC in their usual biased coverage led this story with David Cameron retracting one of the names on the list, rather than any weight upon the other 28. It's a shame that their (the BBC) vehemently left wing bias has led to yet another political story of substance being obscured by minor corrections. Thankfullly the audience, so often insulted, will question MPs, of all political hues, as to the future of the NHS.

  • 8.
  • At 06:44 PM on 22 Aug 2007,
  • Neil Jeffery wrote:

it is difficult for Labour to tackle the Conservatives, as David Climbdown's party has hardly got a grip on what is needed - facts. Consequently jelly wrestling would be easier.

  • 9.
  • At 07:23 PM on 22 Aug 2007,
  • Paul wrote:

Get off the Tories Backs, since Gordon Brown pinched the top job you bbc lot think he is the best thing since sliced bread, you are supposed to be unbiased and all you want to do is slag off David Cameron, All the BBC is doing is taking viewers money and acting as the Official Labour Broadcaster,


I voted labour in 1997, and never again, he has robbed this country blind, for God sake stop changing things and just get on with the job!

Labour have ruined this country with their lies and decete.

Anyone will do, anyone but labour, everyone in Labour keeps thinking what about this idea, hey Ive got a good idea, its like fashion Ive heard it all before, they just want the big fat pay cheque and the jobs for their relatives, the bbc have not once criticised brown for stealing the countries money, I wonder what the agenda of the bbc really is, Simon Mayo and Andrew Neil are the only decent politcal (non-biased) interviewers of Politicians, look at the state of the banking system, HBOS bailing out some micky mouse partern in the loans lending business today. How much more can we take, if there is a God, please get rid of labour and let someone else have a go who doesnt tax everything that moves.

  • 10.
  • At 07:28 PM on 22 Aug 2007,
  • Paul Graham wrote:

The Conservative Party seems to stagger from one mess to another. Grammar Schools, apparent idifference to the floods, and now Hospitals. Even the knee jerk reaction to the Human Rights Act is seen by the "man in the street" as just that, or alternatively an over-reaction based on one extreme example - which may be nothing to do with that Act anyway.
Perhaps we will soon be seeing their cure for all ills - a new leader - soon!

  • 11.
  • At 08:08 PM on 22 Aug 2007,
  • Dean Maisey wrote:

I thought the hospital with the A&E due to close was the Pricess Royal Hospital here in Haywards Heath, which David Cameron referred to earlier this week when he was in Worthing talking about the other planned closures by the West Sussex Primary Care Trust. However, I notice there is also a campaign to save services at the Princess Royal Hosital, Telford (, so maybe Andrew Lansley was right to retract.

  • 12.
  • At 09:04 PM on 22 Aug 2007,
  • neil strawbridge wrote:

i am emailing to voice my frustration at the bbc (and channel 4) reporting of this issue. Never would I have invisaged myself coming to the defence of a tory but at least David Cameron is highlighting this issue. The continued 'centralisation'of NHS directly effects our communities. The most vulnerable people are those most likely to need the services of local A+Es, maternity units, district general hospitals.They are the people who will end up isolated from their families who have no car and cannot afford the taxi fare to the 'specialist centre' 20 miles away.
The big issue today seems to Cameron getting egg on his face. Well good luck to him if he keeps this issue in the news.
Neil Strawbridge.
Staff Nurse.
A+E. Sheffield.

  • 13.
  • At 09:25 PM on 22 Aug 2007,
  • Ian of Horsham wrote:

Your main page saye that there are 11 comments for this story. Why do you publish only three? Where are the rest?

  • 14.
  • At 10:07 PM on 22 Aug 2007,
  • Owen Lloyd wrote:

I'm more than disappointed with the way the BBC has reported this issue. It has determined that mild ineptitudes in the Conservative position are more important than the debate about the future configuration of our hospital and health services. The debate has been hijacked by the political commentators. I was appalled to listen to radio 4 the other evening. The interviewer was banging on about mistakes and apologies - and you're still at it today - then, when the spokesman was finally able to talk about health, he was primly told he's run out of time. Confused - you bet!

  • 15.
  • At 10:53 PM on 22 Aug 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

I know that the tories haven't been in power for a long time, and memories are short, but are there people out there who REALLY believe that the Tories care about the NHS at all? Let's not forget who destroyed the NHS by creating all the "opt out" trusts with their associated bureaucracies in the first place. This is just a political point scoring exercise and I hope nobody is fooled.

  • 16.
  • At 11:23 PM on 22 Aug 2007,
  • malcolm hill wrote:

The BBC and other media may be accusing the Tories of getting their facst wrong on the hospitals involved but if they came to Hertfordshire they would find that their facts are very correct.
Our hospitals are under threat of closure of key servicse and the new hospital at Hatfield promised by Labour has been scrapped as they have run out of funds..
How can a county that contributes some of the largest sums of tax in this country be left with one of the worst NHS services with further cuts to come.No wonder nobody wants a Labour MP in Hertfordshire at the moment.We have seen the devastation at first hand over the past 10 years.
regards malcolm hill

  • 17.
  • At 12:11 AM on 23 Aug 2007,
  • Andrew Morton wrote:

For an Opposition party potential hospital closures and closures of facilities should be grist to the mill and a walk in the political park. To mess things up as badly as the Tories have here requires real talent.

Really, this wasn't rocket science. They should have checked out their information with Health Service trusts first. Their failure to do so has resulted in a shambles.

  • 18.
  • At 08:31 AM on 23 Aug 2007,
  • Bruce Fox wrote:

Why am i not surpised the Labour Governement health refuses to refute any of the claims. Proves there is something to it . Again the Pro left wing media cant dispute the claims.Im Surprised the BBC wouldnt even challenge the government on this issue. So much for even handedness.

  • 19.
  • At 09:05 AM on 23 Aug 2007,
  • Albert wrote:

Yes Laura, with all the confusion to try and con and therefore attract ex Tories back to the fold, the Conservatives would probably do far better if they designed a web-site called:
Have a nice day Laura.

  • 20.
  • At 09:08 AM on 23 Aug 2007,
  • geoff wrote:

This is pure and simple political opportunism on the part of the conservatives - no doubt driven by their desperation to have fallen behind in the polls.

The NHS is trying to reorganise many of its services. Its doing it based on the latest clinical evidence about how best to save lives. For example, patients are currently dieing because their ambulance stops at their local hospital rather than driving passed to the nearest expert stroke centre.

Many of these changes have never been made because of the political difficulties, but Blair started the process in his later days and Labour are now set on a course of supporting it.

If successful it will have a profound effect on the impact of the NHS in saving lives.

It is a tragedy that the tories are choosing to scaremonger the public about 'closures'. More money is going into the NHS year on year. Every 'closure' is offset by a bigger expansion somewhere else - and all the NHS wants is to be able to respond to clinical evidence.

All I can say, is on the basis of this tory campaign, neither the NHS nor (sadly) about 50,000 lives per year will be safe in David Cameron's hands.

  • 21.
  • At 02:25 PM on 23 Aug 2007,
  • Bill Rees wrote:

The reason the Tories and Cameron have once again created cofunsion over this issue is Cameron once again goes in feet first on another PR Stunt visiting hospitals.He also did not do his homework.Cameron needs to drop the hype and concentrate on proper debate and produce some constructive policies.Unfortunately this guys not up to the job.

  • 22.
  • At 03:14 PM on 23 Aug 2007,
  • Quietzapple wrote:

Let us not forget that it was Enoch Powell who first tried, in the jibe of the time, to make the Haelth Service "pay."

The right have been after a policy which doesn't sound niggardly and dangerous ever since.

Did I hear a mention of Matron?

  • 23.
  • At 04:01 PM on 24 Aug 2007,
  • grania davy wrote:

we have had a government in power for 10yrs that has purposefully misrepresented facts in possibly every area and the best the BBC can do is report continually on the slip ups that occur with the Toies. Which is worse , a genuine mistake, which has been apologised for, or the other?Great unbiased reporting again BBC. as a previous blogger said, Browns Boadcasting Corporation, used to be Blairs, we havenot moved very far have we? When can we have some grown up,intelligent reporting? we do after all pay for it.

  • 24.
  • At 06:56 PM on 25 Aug 2007,
  • Guy Fox wrote:

Mr. Brown should pretend that it is 1938 again... but the military ambitions of the Germans has been replaced by financial ambitions.

Beware the $heep in wolf's clothing.

  • 25.
  • At 11:45 AM on 28 Aug 2007,
  • KP wrote:

The Tories should steer clear of public services whilst promising tax cuts. Its sheer hypocrisy to attack Labour for rationalisation of services when the Tory sums only add up if massive 'savings' (i.e. closures, mergers and downgrades) of departments are made. They've tried at the last 3 elections to convince us that tax cuts AND public service improvements can be made at the same time. Thank goodness the electorate are not stupid.

  • 26.
  • At 10:55 PM on 30 Aug 2007,
  • grania davy wrote:

It is very sensibile of D Cameron to keep the pressure up on this government who are in their 11th year and have failed to deliver in any area. The NHS has suffered greatly from continual tampering, poor co-ordination, too many disconnected IT programmes that fail to communicate even the simplest details to be accessed across areas. These are just a few of the things. Large companies manage to have global IT programmes that are complicated, run efficiently and at less cost. What they do not have is daft situations of each office running different set ups with no ability to interface. The idea that this government have any real strategy countrywide is rather beyond belief, there is no joined up thinking linking any of the services, at any level and that is the really scary reality.

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