Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
Of course I cannot, as we do not have time. The hon. Gentleman must understand that.
It follows that we must be very cautious about getting rid of targets. There may be too many of them, and some of them may be the wrong ones, but the new Administration gives us a good opportunity to look through them again. All targets risk having perverse consequences: when they do, they should be looked at again and either revised or strengthened. However, very stern measures should be taken when targets are abused.
One hears stories—I have no idea whether they are true—about accident and emergency departments keeping people in ambulances on the hospital forecourt so that they do not miss their four-hour target. People who do that are in breach of the fundamental Hippocratic principles according to which they are supposed to work. The whole point is that the spirit of those principles is important, because it means that people in the medical profession should always put the patient's interest first, maintain the highest standards of professional behaviour and be attached to medicine's scientific principles. Those principles are non-negotiable. They are deeply ingrained in every self-respecting doctor or nurse, and anyone who abuses them in the way that I described should be sacked. It is as simple as that.
Nevertheless, I share the view that many hon. Members have set out—that it would be splendid if we could provide a reasonable set of outcomes and outputs from the health service using only market disciplines—but that is never possible. Of course I want liberalisation of the supply side in health, especially in the secondary sector, and there is more that we can do to bring in the private sector in certain circumstances. The competition in central London between large general hospitals is a good thing and should be encouraged.
Of course we want patient choice too, but it is utterly delusory to think that the health service could be run according to market principles and mechanisms alone and still do the job for the country that it was designed to do in 1948—and which I hope it will continue to do for at least another 60 years, or even longer.