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NHS reform Thursday, 27 July, 2000, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
NHS Plan: reaction
Hospital scene
Ministers plan radical change to the NHS
The government's fundamental reforms of the NHS have prompted much reaction from health service professionals and patient groups.

Vanessa Bourne, Patients Association:

"With all these statements everybody gets frightfully excited, and then you look behind the rhetoric and you think 'hang on a minute is this actually going to work?'

"How do you force people to become doctors and nurses if you are not paying them enough? How do you force a monopoly service to really look after its customers when it knows perfectly well its customers can't go elsewhere.

Vanessa Bourne
Vannessa Bourne

"A lot of this is just headline 'let's have it like this', but the reality may be very difficult to get right."

"I would have liked to have seen a really fundamental look at some of the fault lines that have existed in the NHS for 50 years.

"I thought that was what we were going to get out of this, but we haven't. We still a service that gives you free hotel accommodation if you are 21 and in a hospital, but not if you are 91 and in a nursing home."

Dr Ian Bogle, chairman, British Medical Association:

"We welcome the significant expansion in consultant numbers, the increase in medical school places and the expansion in the number of nurses.

"These are all clearly steps in the right direction which will, in time, bring tangible benefits for patients.

Dr Ian Bogle
Dr Ian Bogle is worried about new contracts for senior hospital doctors

"But we believe the projected 1.6% per annum increase in the number of GPs is too low.

"By the end of 2004 the UK will have about two doctors per thousand head of population.

"That is better than we have now, but we will still be in the third division of the world's health systems.

"Greece already has four doctors per thousand head of population, Germany 3.4 and France 2.9."

Dr Bogle welcomed plans for more hospital beds and investment in equipment, information technology and new hospitals - but cast doubt on cost effectiveness of using private finance to build hospitals.

He said plans for a radical overhaul of doctors' contracts were "unacceptable"

"The proposals to prohibit private practice for new consultants after they have fulfilled their NHS commitment could drive doctors out of the NHS, further exacerbating workforce problems."

Christine Hancock, general secretary, Royal College of Nursing:

Ms Hancock said she was pleased that the government had recognised that reform was only possible if new nurses were recruited, but said she was worried about difficult recruit would be.

Christine Hancock
Christine Hancock welcomed an extended role for nurses

"The key challenge is to hang on to every nurse that we have got in the NHS now and also encourage nurses who are not working in nursing at the moment to come back in.

"More support for people who have got significant domestic commitments, childcare facilities, more flexibility in the way nurses are able to work around their shift systems - all of these will help enormously."

Ms Hancock also welcomed an extended role for nurses, including making referrals, running clinics and prescribing drugs.

"What is really important is that we now have a commitment that the best nursing practise should be available to patients in every hospital and community service in our country."

Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern England:

Gordon Lishman
Gordon Lishman said elderly people would be "bitterly disappointed"

"There will be bitter disappointment today among older people who receive personal care and are still, in most cases, going to have to continue paying for it.

"Making nursing care in nursing homes free will benefit 35,000 people, but towards half a million older people in residential nursing homes need personal care.

"Around 125,000 would benefit from free personal care and they have been abandoned to fend for themselves.

"Elements of the package are welcome. The extra money for intermediate care is much needed and will make a big difference to the lives of many older people who will be able to stay in their own homes."

How do you force a monopoly service to really look after its customers when it knows perfectly well its customers can't go elsewhere

Vanessa Bourne, Patients Association

Nigel Edwards, policy director, NHS Confederation (which represents health authorities and trusts):

"The Government has been brave to address head-on the really difficult problems facing the NHS.

"This makes it truly radical and presents NHS staff, particularly its managers with a huge change agenda.

"The Plan acknowledges there is no simple solution, no straightforward political slogan.

"The problems it is grappling with are universal ones that beset health care systems of the western world."

Mr Edwards said NHS managers now faced a huge task in implementing change.

"Whilst we can make an immediate start on some things, it isn't a case of just going out and spending the new money, we also need to get maximum value."

Delyth Morgan, chief executive, Breakthrough Breast Cancer:

"I am delighted that tackling cancer is the cornerstone of the new NHS plan and was pleased to contribute to the planning process.

"Cancer affects one in three of the UK population. Patchy services and delays in diagnosis have shaken public confidence in the NHS.

"Patients must have a say in shaping care and service delivery.

"The NHS plan encapsulates all this and more - which is real progress."

Rabbi Julia Neuberger, chief executive, The King's Fund (independent healthcare watchdog):

"For the first time in its 52-year history, patients are being put at the heart of the NHS.

For the first time in its 52-year history, patients are being put at the heart of the NHS

Rabbi Julia Neuberger, King's Fund

"By bringing patients into all parts of the NHS, the National Plan should ensure that they have a much greater say in how the service is run, and in how care is provided.

"Plans to tackle the root causes of ill health and to improve access to health care are very welcome.

"But it will take concerted action, backed up with significant resources, to ensure that the NHS makes it a priority to reduce health inequalities and tackle the variations in quality and access that still exist, particularly in primary care."

Cliff Prior, Vice-Chair of the Long-Term Medical Conditions Alliance:

"What we've seen and heard so far has been pretty impressive. But fine words are not enough.

"The NHS has to be inclusive. The NHS is ours, and it has to work for everybody, whatever their age, race, gender or postcode.

"But what about when there is no cure? When people are living with a long-term condition, quality of life is what counts.

"Will the government listen to what patients say when deciding what new treatments should be available on the NHS?"

Clara Mackay, Senior Policy Adviser, Consumers' Association:

"Changes in contracts are a follow on from Consumers' Association's campaign to abolish consultants' contracts.

"However, those consultants who have the most expertise and experience will still be able to spend a substantial amount of time working in the private sector - and this may jeopardise targets for bringing down waiting times and the quality of care for patients in both sectors.

"Rhetoric on patient power must become a reality for people who use the NHS - and there are still many questions as to how this will work in practice."

Vanessa Bourne, Patients Association
"I hoped they would look at the fault lines in the NHS, but they haven't"
Gordon Lishman, Age Concern
"Elderly people have been abandoned"
Dr Ian Bogle, chairman, BMA
"We would have liked more GPs"
See also:

27 Jul 00 | NHS reform
27 Jul 00 | NHS reform
27 Jul 00 | NHS reform
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