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The BBC's Chris Hogg
"Mr Milburn told his audience that the NHS should remain Britain's dominant healthcare provider"
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Health Secretary Alan Milburn
"We risk the ethos of the NHS at our peril"
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Dr John Chisholm, Chair of BMA's GP committee
"Clearly there is a political aspect to the negotiations"
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John Edmonds of the GMB
"We ought to be told exactly what the Government has in mind"
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Friday, 6 July, 2001, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Milburn outlines NHS plans
Hospital
Ministers want to keep NHS 'public sector ethos'
Health Secretary Alan Milburn has said he wants the NHS to forge a new relationship with the private sector.

Speaking at the NHS managers' conference in Manchester, Mr Milburn said there was no question of privatising health care - but he did want to see private enterprise involved in some areas of the health service

The health secretary used his speech to defend the public sector ethos of the health service.


Just as surely as that ethos of public service makes the NHS, losing it would break the NHS

Alan Milburn
He said that the role of the private sector in the NHS will be limited to work at the margins.

He explicitly rejected the philosophy of "private sector good, public sector bad", which some unions have accused the government of adopting.

And he stressed the government wants a new relationship with the private sector - not a takeover.

Ethos

He said: "Just as surely as that ethos of public service makes the NHS, losing it would break the NHS. We risk the ethos of the NHS - its values and its principles - at our peril.

"This is not privatisation as some would seek to categorise it, the taking of services out of the NHS.

"It is bringing into the NHS private sector help in those areas where it has a track record, and where there are clear benefits for patients.

"The private sector will help, but the NHS is, and will remain Britain's dominant healthcare provider."

Mr Milburn also said it would be "folly" to sacrifice the values and principles of the NHS and, to specifically reject any move towards an American-style system based on private healthcare insurance.

"You only have to look across the Atlantic to see what happens when frontline health care is compromised by a clash of motives."

Specific targets

Alan Milburn
Alan Milburn wants private sector involvement in the NHS
However, he also warned that NHS staff should not "close their minds" to co-operation with the private sector.

The government has set out four specific areas where the private sector can become involved.

Two are using spare private sector capacity for operations on NHS patients, and allowing private sector management to run stand-alone surgery centres.

It would also extend the private finance initiative to primary health care, social services and the provision of equipment, and use private sector expertise in areas like information technology.

Earlier, Mr Milburn told the BBC's Today programme that he was keen to give frontline staff more power.

"The money is going in but we have got to get the reforms in as well.

"And that crucially in my view means we have got to get the money and the power down to the front line staff, down to the managers and the doctors and the nurses and all the other staff who do such a brilliant job, so that they can decide how to spent it for the benefit of patients rather than me deciding it in Westminster."

More freedom

Health service managers are calling on ministers to give them more freedom to carry out the government's modernisation plans.

The NHS Confederation says changes are being hampered by political interference.

It says managers want to be given the freedom to compete on equal terms with the private sector to run public services.

They complain that the many targets and instructions handed down from Whitehall have overwhelmed those trying to run hospitals and primary care trusts.

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See also:

06 Jun 00 | Health
NHS 'must modernise'
31 May 00 | Health
Public quizzed over NHS
22 Mar 00 | Health
NHS reform: Blair takes charge
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