The only economy this government can manage is with the truth

So have you seen the latest about Andrew Lansley and his health reforms?

It seems the Commons Health Select Committee, chaired by his forerunner as Health Minister, Stephen Dorrell, has released a report saying that hospitals have been “salami slicing” their services as they try to find £20 billion in efficiency savings while Mr Lansley busily refoces the NHS towards privatisation around them.

It said the process “continues to complicate the push for efficiency gains”, it was far from certain whether the targets will be met, and there was a “marked disconnect between the concerns expressed by those responsible for delivering services and the relative optimism of the Government” over achieving cuts. In other words, Mr Lansley was misrepresenting the situation.

Lansley has insisted that the report is out of date and unfair and that patient care is not suffering due to his reorganisation. Well he would, wouldn’t he?

The MPs’ report follows statements of “outright opposition” to the Health and Social Care Bill being debated by Parliament, by the British Medical Association (BMA), the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges – representing doctors, nurses and midwives.

According to Labour leader Ed Miliband, speaking in Prime Minister’s Questions on January 25, no less than 98 per cent of GPs want the bill withdrawn – and these are the people who are supposed to be benefiting from it!

How far can Mr Lansley be trusted on this? Well, do you remember last November, when his Department for Health was ordered to publish its analysis of the risks that his shake-up of the NHS poses for the health service, after a year-long battle to keep it secret, because it might harm the Health Bill’s passage through Parliament? It still hasn’t seen the light of day.

What about when Mr Lansley said that some NHS trusts were on the brink of collapse due to having to honour Private Finance Initiative contracts arranged with the previous Labour government, last September – and then the trusts he mentioned furiously contradicted him? They said their problems were caused by his edict that they should cut their budgets by four per cent every year for the next four years.

There’s the revelation that the Department of Health inflated the costs of NHS operations in its reports to MPs, in order to make private operations – and therefore private providers – more attractive.

Take a look at one of my previous articles if you want to make a more full list of these economies with the truth.

Or does anyone remember the really big ones, back in the days of the 2010 general election? When Lansley’s boss, David Cameron, said there would be no top-down reorganisation of the health service if he became Prime Minister? Immediately after taking power, the Health and Social Care Bill was announced. Lansley himself admitted on the BBC’s Question Time that he had been working on it for six years prior to the election.

So when Mr Cameron said he needed only three letters to sum up his plans for the future (“N.H.S.”) we can now be assured that they stood for “No Health Service”.

There are more incidents of the Health Secretary and his Prime Minister misleading us over the effects of the Bill – and certainly over the amount of support it has from healthcare professionals, but I’ve mentioned our comedy Prime Minister so let’s move on to him.

Mr Cameron is a repeat offender when it comes to misleading the public. Take a look at this letter from Mr Miliband to him, following on from the PMQs I have already mentioned:

In an answer to me, you said that “There are more people in work today than there were at the time of the last election”. In fact, the most recent employment figures from the Office for National Statistics show that total employment between May-July 2010 and September-November 2011 fell by 26,000.

In an answer to Lindsay Roy MP, you said that the Merlin agreement “actually led to an increase in bank lending last year”. In fact, the latest Trends in Lending report from the Bank of England, published last Friday, said that “the stock of lending to SMEs contracted between end-April and end-November 2011”.

In an answer to Paul Maynard MP, you spoke of “the real shame… that there are so many millions of children who live in households where nobody works and indeed that number doubled under the previous government”. In fact, according to the Office for National Statistics, the number of children living in workless households fell by 372,000 between April-June 1997 and April-June 2010.

In an answer to Rt Hon Anne McGuire MP, who said that your Government was planning to cut benefits to disabled children, you said that “The Hon Lady is wrong”. In fact, according to page 28 of the Department for Work and Pensions’ own impact assessment on the introduction of universal credit, your policy of mirroring for disabled children the current adult eligibility for Disability Living Allowance means that the rate paid to those disabled children who do not qualify for the highest rate of the DLA care component “would be less than now (£26.75 instead of £53.84)”.

I have mentioned, in another article on this blog, that the IMF has revised its expectations of UK economic growth this year down from 1.6 per cent to 0.6 per cent. On Wednesday it was revealed that the economy in fact contracted by 0.2 per cent in the last quarter of 2011 – the run-up to Christmas, when it should have been at its busiest. Jeremy Paxman had the time of his life on Newsnight, when he told Danny Alexander the government had no idea what it was doing.

But today, Mr Cameron was at the World Economic Forum in Davos, telling other countries to be bolder if they want to see off their economic troubles. He said his government’s efforts to bring the economy under control had “earned credibility and got [the UK] ahead of the markets”.

One can’t help but wonder how many of the other world leaders were laughing up their sleeves at these comments from a man whose policies lie utterly discredited after a week of one damning report after another.

Where did he learn to play fast and loose with the facts like that?

My guess would be that it was at the Conservative Party’s Research Department (CRD) where his boss was – who would have thought it? – Andrew Lansley.

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