Tory MPs savage ex-civil service chief Bob Kerslake over ‘politically-motivated’ resignation

Posted On: 
12th December 2017

Tory MPs have launched a co-ordinated attack on Lord Kerslake after he quit a senior NHS role in protest at government under-funding of the health service.

Lord Kerslake meets the Queen in 2013

Conservative backbenchers accused the former civil service chief of ducking responsibility for the financial problems at Kings College NHS Tust, where he was chair before standing down.

They also suggested the crossbench peer's resignation had been "politically-motivated", given his role as an adviser to Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

Bob Kerslake was asked to resign from NHS role two days before he quit in protest

Former head of civil service Bob Kerslake quits NHS role over government under-funding

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Lord Kerslake announced that he was quitting his post on Sunday evening blaming ministers’ "unrealistic” expectations about the “scale of the challenge" facing the health service.

It later emerged, however, that he had been asked to step down two days prior over the deteriorating financial situation of the trust, which has now been placed in special measures.

In the Commons, Tory MPs lined up to criticise Lord Kerslake’s performance in the role and question his motivation for standing down.

Health minister Philip Dunne said: “Lord Kerslake has been providing advice to the NHS. I think he has also been spending a considerable part of his time providing information to the leader of the opposition on a whole range of non-NHS related topics.”

He added: “Other trusts face similar challenges, but none have deteriorated as far or as fast as Kings, especially in the last few months… this is why it was placed into financial special measures by NHS Improvement yesterday.

“There has been a consistent pattern of financial projections by this trust that have not been met during Lord Kerslake’s tenure as Chairman.”     

Tory backbenchers went further in their condemnation, with Boston and Skegness MP Matt Warman accusing the crossbench peer of a “politically-motivated resignation,” that would leave “the NHS, the hardworking staff and the patients all worse off".

Monmouth MP David Davies asked “Isn’t what we have here, is one of Labour’s top advisers jumping in a blaze of politically-motivated publicity before being pushed out for woeful financial mismanagement?”  

Other MPs also piled in, with Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan suggesting that Lord Kerslake was not entirely committed to the role given that he held “seven remunerated roles other than that chairmanship and four non-financial positions.”

Labour MP Kate Hoey, backed her Conservative colleagues' stance, saying: “Sometimes just appointing someone who is the head of the civil service to be a chairman of a trust doesn’t necessarily mean that they actually have the attributes to do that job.

“Sometimes they are also so busy doing other jobs that they might just take their eye off the ball,” she added.

However, many other Labour MPs leapt to Lord Kerslake’s defence, blaming years of Tory cuts to the NHS for the Trust’s poor financial state.  

Helen Hayes said: “Instead of scapegoating a well-respected public servant, will the minister listen to his wake up call and look again at a full review of the finances for Kings College Hospital and give the trust the resources that it needs?”  

Former deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman said: “The problem at Kings is not the leadership any more than it is the growing number of patients or the dedicated staff. The problem at Kings is there is not enough money.”