The government should “go much further” in its efforts to reduce the influence of the state on the NHS and give control to staff, a leading Liberal Democrat politician has said.
Health minister Norman Lamb said public ownership of the NHS was rarely the most effective way to deliver health services.
“The state can never make people happy. Surely we understand this? It’s people, companionship, and friendship,” he said at a conference organised by a Liberal Democrat think-tank.
Lamb said he wanted to see more health services like Hinchingbrooke Hospital, which is the first NHS hospital to be operated by a private company, Circle. He highlighted the fact that some of the shares in Circle were owned by employees at the hospital.
“If you give people a stake in their organisation, you allow them to have some control in how their service develops, you unleash a productivity gain. We’ve seen some of this in the NHS but I think it could go much further,” he explained.
The Liberal Democrat minister also railed against activists from “the Left” who he said wanted to preserve the National Health Service in its current form and made it difficult for the government to make its changes.
“The NHS has the status of a national religion, and so the resistance from the Left, from the Labour party, to any change you make to the NHS, that it’s an attack, an assault, on ‘our NHS’ as they see it, it makes change incredibly difficult.”
Lamb was speaking at a conference organised by Liberal Democrat think-tank CentreForum, to mark the ten-year anniversary of the party’s influential “Orange Book”, which advocates free market economic solution.