Page last updated at 10:21 GMT, Thursday, 20 August 2009 11:21 UK

Tories are party of NHS - Cameron

David Cameron
Mr Cameron says his party's plans will help the NHS meet its challenges

The Conservatives are the "party of the NHS", while Labour is out-of-touch and bureaucratic, David Cameron has said.

The Tory leader restated his pledge to increase spending on health during a speech in Bolton, Greater Manchester.

He is bidding to recover from the fallout of Tory MEP Daniel Hannan's appearance on US TV, where he claimed the NHS had been a "60-year mistake".

Labour said Mr Cameron "could not be trusted to keep his promises" on the health service.

Earlier this week the Tory leader defended shadow health minister Lord McColl, who was criticised for being on the advisory board of Endeavour Health, which offers customers an alternative to NHS doctors.

'Point-scoring'

In his speech Mr Cameron accused Labour of "political point-scoring" instead of addressing the serious issues, and said its health service reforms had "come to the end of the line"

Warm words and no action aren't enough to hide the two faces of the Tory party on the NHS
Gillian Merron, health minister

He said that despite looming economic restraints, health spending could not stand still in the face of an ageing population and medical advances.

"The debt crisis means we need a new approach to public spending, to make sure we get more for less. But in the NHS, even that won't do," Mr Cameron said.

"That is why we have pledged real-terms increases in NHS spending - unlike Labour - a fact which, to put it mildly, takes the wind out of their point-scoring sails."

The Tory leader said increased spending must be accompanied by reform, arguing that his party's plans to end top-down targets, introduce greater transparency, open up the NHS to new providers and give people greater choice over services would lead to better-quality care.

"We believe in the NHS. We understand the pressures it faces. We are the party of the NHS today because we not only back the values of the NHS, we have a vision for the future of the NHS," he said.

'Rattled'

Mr Cameron attacked Labour's approach to health reform, saying people must allowed to do more to help themselves.

He added: "Bureaucratic methods are increasingly ineffective today because the public health problems of today are increasingly the consequence of perfectly legal personal decisions, made in private spaces.

"People choosing to binge on junk food; sit on the internet instead of going out for a run; drink till they pass out.

"I stuck my neck out on this before when I said that instead of blaming external factors for everything, it's time we recognised that there is a moral choice that personal responsibility cannot be shirked."

Mr Cameron said his party's reforms would offer "the best of both worlds: the fairness of a National Health Service that is unique to our country, combined with the quality and personal service that people are used to in other countries".

The Conservative leader has been forced to rebuke Mr Hannan, describing his views as "eccentric", after the MEP claimed he would "not wish [the NHS] on anybody," arguing it was too bureaucratic and unfair.

Labour has sought to keep the pressure on Mr Cameron over the row, claiming that it revealed "deep ambivalence" in the Conservative Party about the NHS.

Health minister Gillian Merron said: "If a rattled David Cameron won't stand up to special interests and hardliners in his party, how can he be trusted to keep his promises on health?

"Warm words and no action aren't enough to hide the two faces of the Tory party on the NHS."



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