Stop Hiding Behind NHS Staff; Premier Is Accused of Using Health Workers as 'Human Shields' to Avoid Criticism of the Way Labour Is Mismanaging the System
Hughes, David, Marsh, Beezy, Daily Mail (London)
Byline: DAVID HUGHES;BEEZY MARSH
TONY Blair was accused yesterday of using doctors and nurses as a 'human shield' to fend off criticism of his handling of the Health Service.
Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith levelled the charge as the bitter political row over the treatment of 94-year-old Rose Addis at a London hospital became personal.
Stung by the Prime Minister's charge that he was deliberately denigrating the NHS to convince voters public services were not worth saving, the Tory leader rounded on Mr Blair.
He claimed the Premier was hiding his 'failure to reform the public services' behind hospital staff and accused him of trying to stifle legitimate public debate about the state of the NHS.
'This is the ultimate smear in a week of smears from this Government,' he said.
'The Prime Minister's idea of a debate on public services is to threaten anyone who dares criticise his dreadful record.
'The Prime Minister should stop using doctors and nurses, police officers and teachers, as a human shield and start to account for his own failure to reform public services after five years of promises.' In a keynote speech in Newcastle, delivered as the storm continued over Mrs Addis's treatment in the casualty department of the Whittington Hospital in North London, Mr Blair lavished praise on public sector workers.
Two and a half years after complaining he bore the 'scars on my back' from trying to reform the public services, the Prime Minister offered fulsome support to nurses, doctors, teachers and police officers - and denounced the Tories for their 'wrecking' tactics.
'At present they confine themselves to denigrating everything about the public services - running them down, saying the services are lousy - so that people feel it's all hopeless, nothing works, that any investment is just wasted money,' Mr Blair said.
'Each individual case of actual or perceived service failure, accepted or disputed, true or false, is luridly headlined in order to demoralise us all.
'It's denigration for a purpose - to argue that the public services aren't worth saving.' He sought to rally staff behind his reforms, praising the 'millions of hours in unpaid overtime' they put in and warning of the damage to morale done by critical media coverage. 'To the papers, a real-life NHS story is today's frenzy and tomorrow's fish-and-chip wrapper. To the nurse and doctor it is their reputation, their integrity, their life, today, tomorrow, the next day,' the Prime Minister said.
'This is the decade when we will look to public service professionals as the new byword for can- do innovation and dynamism. For shaking things up and getting things done.' He even praised the public sector unions, in the past criticised by ministers for standing in the way of reform. 'Forwardlooking trade unions understand this new professionalism. They know that the future is about partnership rather than confrontation,' he said. …