In the Nov/Dec ’80 issue of Socialism & Health‘ we published an interview with Stan Orme, who, at the time, was the shadow health minister. Since then Michael Foot has become the party leader and Gwyneth Dunwoody has taken over Stan Orme’s job. We felt that it would be interesting to see what her views were on broadly the same areas as those we asked Stan Orme about, so we interviewed her in early March.

This is a summary of that interview:

Alison: Which Tory policies are you most concerned with, with regard to health?

G.D.:  It’s their general attitude to health care that worries me, their intent to undermine the N.H.S. from the inside & particularly a 75/25 division of health care between the N.H.S. & private medicine.

Graham: What do you see as the next Labour government’s priorities for both reversing changes introduced by the Tories and in other ways?

G.D.:   The economy is going to be in a bad way & we’ll have to fight for spending on the N.H.S.  The particular priorities should be   a) capital expenditure and b) how to restore the personal social services, as community care is a mess at the moment.  This will be made worse by the proposed reorganisation, and the ‘cinderella’ disciplines will need particular help.

Graham: How would you link that with the Royal Commission & the Black Report?

G.D.: I’m wary of stating detailed priorities partly because the Black Report hasn’t been sufficiently analyzed. Doctors must be given incentives to go into neglected areas and an immediate boost should be given to N.H.S. morale. Current management techniques are thirty years out of date. H’s also important to defend existing NHS structures. The Labour Party must work out what it feels priorities are by the next election and give up sloganizing and substitute it with more concrete policies

Alison: How would a Labour Government tackle the tobacco industry?

G.D.: I think there has to be a total ban on advertising. There’s no evidence that the present government is planning to do this. Tobacco industry profits should be creamed off into the NHS.  Stop business practices that British companies practice in the Third World which would not be allowed here.

Alison: The   Black  Report   advocated  ‘phasing  out’  the British tobacco  industry  within  ten  years,  how do you  see that’?

G.D.: Workers in the tobacco industry must be consulted & redeployed, with public money being used to create Jobs.  If the companies  won’t  diversify, they  should   be  told  that  the  state  won’t  tolerate  their activities.

Alison:  The last Labour Government didn’t  do very much..

G.D.: I think there’s been a shift amongst the public in attitudes towards smoking & smokers – the Labour movement has always been aware of the effects. Predictably, it’s the middle classes who are changing their habits & classes IV & V who aren’t. The press don’t campaign against the industry and the Sunday Times appears to have been ‘nobbled’ by a section of it recently.

 Graham: Do you think a Labour Government could stand up to the tobacco industry? that’s what  the  real  issue  is,  it’s  very  different  producing  educational  material from tackling multinationals.

G.D.: “I  think that all governments  are able  to  withstand attacks where the majority of the people actually understand  what  they ‘re  doing  and why. I believe it now is something in which a Labour Government would have to lead.

Graham: The Black Report uses the tobacco industry as an example of how health may be improved by political action & they later suggest  that  we need  a ‘food policy’ in much the same way as we need a tobacco  policy.   This would  presumably involve education, food  subsidies  and  tackling  the  food industry.

G.D.: This  would  be a long  term  proposition.  While   I   feel  that nutrition should be made political and food policy  become   a priority   for   the  Labour  Party whether enough  work has  been  done  or  enough real political thought has been given to that sort of development I doubt . This sort of stuff is not yet a high priority for the party. Rickets may well soon appear, the school meals service is getting worse. This may make nutrition more political.

Alison: Shouldn’t we  be  making  it  political before we get these problems?

G.D.:Yes,  but  I’m  trying  to  avoid  a  commitment  to such policies   when  there will be enormous problems. We should  have   a  limited  set of proposals that you’ve  got to do & can do, & fights that you can defend. Nutrition is well up on my priorities but at the moment is low down on party priorities. That may change.

Alison: How would you   like  to see occupational  health developing?

G.D.: I’m in favour of it developing as part of the N.H.S. Some Trade Unions want it more closely linked  to the Health & Safety Executive.

Alison :How’s about private health care, in particular occupational aspects?

G.D.:I have  always  persuaded  Trade Unions not  to negotiate private healthcare as part of wages deals. Part   of   the   problem is that   many   people have forgotten what private healthcare was like. They don’t realise all its implications in particular the exclusions for long term support.

Graham:  How do you solve that; as part of the  problem of how you project socialist health policies?

G.D.: That’s part of our responsibility in the House of Commons & part yours. Once people see the real cost of private health  care  they’ll swing  back,  but the N.H.S. may be damaged in the interim. What will safeguard the NHS in the long run is people unders tanding the implications of private treatment.

Alison: What about pay beds within the NHS.?

G.D.: I think they should be phased out very y quickly indeed; even if the insurance companies would like this,  the  NHS has  to  be a  fully comprehensive health service & I  think  that private practice should be right outside it. There will be a growth of some kind of private medicine & it should be licensed. Private units use N.H.S. trained staff without any contribution to their training and I don’ t see why you should have, for example, private hospitals operating alongside NHS. hospitals that haven’t got sufficient nurses.   Maybe private units that use N. H.S. trained staff should have to contribute very substantially to the N.H.S.

Graham: In the Black Report the abolition of child poverty is suggested as a means of combating preventable disease.  This  would   involve   taxation policy, child benefits & possibly an incomes policy. What do you feel about this?

G.D.:       Incomes policies are very problematic.  We do need an extended view of health care,  but  the  implications of the Black Report have not  been  fully debated in the  Labour movement.

Graham:   Why   has health had a lowish priority in the Labour Party for some years?  It had always been a central issue for socialists.

G.D.: We’d got complacent ab o u t health care, t he problems were thought to be specific but overall things were O..K. Under this government it ‘s become clear t½h at the service is  not  good  enough  and  the Black Report came at the right time. Michael  Foot feels very strongly that health is one  of  the  most important  things  that  any socialist can ever be concerned about.

Alison: Inequaliti1es in health  have  been   known  for  some time though.

G.D.: Yes but mainly to experts and not  to ordinary Labour Party members. The Black Report was well written, very well argued & very cogently produced.’

Graham:   What two or three areas of legislation would you like to see the next Labour Government enacting?

G .D .:Difficult  because  in  the  past  we’ve  been  bound  to priorities  without  flexibility but

  • Improving management techniques t o get back some sense of purpose about the NHS among staff.
  • Neglected areas like mental health should be given a boost
  • I want to see   the  whole battle of private health care fought very energetically I really think that’ s one where we’ve got to stop pussyfooting about.
  • Lots   of   other things including day care abortion facilities.

The next government must set out a simple set of steps & defend them in agreement with the workers, the party   &  the trade unions.  That   will   mean hospital services & something constructive in relation  to  the personal social  services .  We’ve got to think about how to channel money, how to monitor things, where our priorities lie and other difficult areas.

Graham:    Can health considerations be brought into other areas of policy making?

G.D.:  Inevitably and it’s happening now, because in local authorities, cuts in their revenue has led to worse social services which has produced increased dependence on the NHS which is itself  under attack. The personal social services need protecting.

Throughout the interview, Mrs. Dunwoody emphasised the need   for the next Labour   government   to have a   list of priorities for    health & health-care  legislation  which could  be both fought for & implemented. While those priorities, & the details of policy,  have  not  yet  been formulated, she intends to see  that  they are during the period  before  the  next  election. We felt that she showed a good grasp of the  problems & was fairly   sanguine  about   th e  differences  between  her   views & likely party policy. We left feeling relatively hopeful.

Graham Bickler

Alison Hadley

 

 

 

 

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