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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
NHS 'getting better', say experts
Surgeons operating
The NHS Plan was published four years ago
The body set up to advise the government on NHS modernisation says the health service is getting better.

In its annual report, the NHS Modernisation Board said there had been "significant and sustained" progress over the past four years.

However, it said some areas of the country had improved faster than others and acknowledged more needs to be done.

The board presented its report to Prime Minister Tony Blair and Health Secretary John Reid on Tuesday.

The board was set up to advise ministers on the best way to meet the targets set out in the government's NHS Plan.

The plan, which was published in July 2000, set out a 10-year strategy for improving the NHS. It included targets for recruiting extra staff and reducing waiting times.

The board includes senior health and social care professionals, front-line staff, managers and patient representatives. It meets ministers every three months.

'Clear improvements'

In its report, the board said progress was being made.

"Significant and sustained improvement is clearly under way in the NHS," it said.

I know there is more to be done
Heath Secretary John Reid
"Throughout the NHS, there are dramatically different and better services, compared with four years ago."

It said more GPs were now providing treatments that were previously only available in hospital.

The report also says there have been huge improvements in cancer care, A&E and the treatment of chronic diseases like diabetes.

But it acknowledged that more needs to be done.

"There is still, however, a way to go before everyone, everywhere, is receiving the kind of treatment we would want for our families and ourselves."

The board said it was keen to see more treatments being carried out in GP clinics rather than hospital.

"The next step we want to see will be a further shift in the provision of services outside hospitals so patients and the public are able to access care more conveniently and locally."

Long waits

Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer and a member of the board, said problems still exist.

"While mortality rates for breast cancer are improving a lack of both equipment and specialist staff means some women are still having long waits for radiotherapy.

"It is only through a combination of early diagnosis and quality and timely treatment will we see real improvements in the standards of care that patients experience."

Mr James Johnson, chairman of the British Medical Associaton, said patients were seeing improvements.

"There seems to be a mis-match between people's experiences. They are surprised, while the general public view is that not much has changed."

Health Secretary John Reid welcomed the report.

"The Board's report shows that throughout the NHS there are dramatically different and better services compared to four years ago when the NHS Plan was launched.

"It shows that the patient-centred NHS is drawing visibly closer. However, I know there is more to be done to ensure that the changes identified in the Board's report are felt by all people, wherever and whenever they access our health system."

Mr Blair said: "There is a huge amount still to do, but the contours for reform and change are now clear.

"There is a real change going on in the perception of the services that people are getting."

The report is the latest to suggest that the NHS is getting better.

Last week, Sir Nigel Crisp, NHS chief executive, published his annual report which said there had been "big improvements" across the health service.

In April, the government's primary care tsar Dr David Colin-Thome published a report which suggested primary care services had improved greatly over the past year.

Shadow Health Secretary Tim Yeo said: "Of course there have been some improvements but after seven years in government and record levels of investment, there are still too many problems."

NHS 'is seeing big improvements'
07 May 04  |  Health

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