NHS at 65

MQT on 2013-07-17
Session date: 
July 17, 2013
Question By: 
Onkar Sahota
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


On the 65th anniversary of the NHS, does the Mayor feel that London needs a pan-regional strategic health authority?


Answer for NHS at 65

Answer for NHS at 65

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I have a statutory responsibility to minimise health inequalities in London. I am chairing obviously the London Health Improvement Board and it is very, very important that we work together to deal with the challenges that London faces. I do think the Mayor has a leadership role in trying to get the best deal for Londoners. This is something that obviously is difficult for me to fulfil perfectly because of the restriction with the statutory limits on what I can do. I do not control the budgets but I can certainly campaign for better treatment of Londoners. In answer to your question, yes I do think we need to take a strategic view of what London needs and that is why we have got [Dame] Ruth Carnall who is coming on board as my Health Adviser, former Chief Executive of NHS London, to help us get those points across. I think she is a first rate candidate for that job.

Dr Onkar Sahota (AM): Mr Mayor, I want to draw your attention to the fact there was a report out last week from the King's Fund which talks about lack of strategic leadership in London. As we know, there has been top-down reorganisation, the Strategic Health Authority has been lost and we are left with 32 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG). As a result of this there is a lack of leadership in London, which they think will lead to disastrous results. I just wanted to know, do you think that your board is a de facto Strategic Health Authority for London?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I do not think it can be that, Onkar, and we have to be honest about that because we do not hold the budgets and, therefore, we do not call the shots in that way. We are there to promote certain outcomes to take views about how to tackle alcohol abuse, obesity, cancer, tobacco indeed, and sorry, you are gesticulating at me, Victoria [Borwick].

Victoria Borwick (AM): Mental health.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Sorry, right. We can campaign and we can militate but we cannot write cheques for huge sums of money.

Dr Onkar Sahota (AM): Would you agree with me then, Mr Mayor, that there is a lack of pan London organisation which looks at what his happening right across London?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes.

Dr Onkar Sahota (AM): That we are leading to fragmentation of the NHS, and this lack of planning right across London. What, as the Mayor for London, responsible for London, are you doing to fill this vacuum? What are you doing about it please?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As I say, we have got the London Health Improvement Board, which I chair.

Dr Onkar Sahota (AM): You have no powers at all, you cannot write cheques and you have no statutory powers to lead to coordination of policies. We are getting closures of accident and emergencies (A&Es) up and down London. We are getting nurses leaving the NHS, we are getting fragmented in the NHS. The big think tank says we have a worse position now than we had two years ago. You are left, by your Tory Government, to be toothless in the whole mess and you have now powers at all. I want to know, as the Mayor of London, you see the situation, what are you doing to campaign for this theory of thinking right across London?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): A couple of points. The current powers of the Mayoralty flow from the Act of 1999 as amended in 2007. Those obviously were not the responsibility of the current Government. I think that there is a case for a strategic view of what is happening in health care in London. It is important to have a voice for Londoners. That is a difficult role for me to fulfil, given the constraints that you rightly point out. I think that the London Health Improvement Board can make a difference. I think it is a great shame that we do not have the budgets that we need. We campaigned for that, we were not successful in that, but we are certainly going to campaign on the issues that I have prescribed.

Dr Onkar Sahota (AM): Mr Mayor, I am glad that you recognise there is a vacuum there. In need of this would you use your good officers to campaign for such powers to the Mayor, or campaign for such a body, to be established right across London, which has real teeth, can deliver real quality and care for Londoners in a way which is coordinated and fulfils the vacuum of leadership that lacks in London now? Would you please join me in fighting for that sort of body to be created?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes. I think it was a mistake to get rid of NHS London. I think NHS London was valid. You need to have a strategic view of what is going on in the capital. Ruth did a great job in my view. I think a lot of the stuff she said was right. I know that you do not necessarily agree with it all, by the way, but she, I think, did a very impressive performance. She is coming to join us and, listening very much to the kind of things that you have to say, we hope to get our points across as powerfully as we can.

Onkar Sahota (AM): Thank you, Mr Mayor.