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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 June, 2004, 07:00 GMT 08:00 UK
'Tough new targets for the NHS'
Overweight man
One in four British men is obese
Ministers could set tough new targets for the NHS when they announce plans to increase health spending this summer.

A report in Health Service Journal says the government will demand cuts in waiting times and hospital admissions in return for the extra cash.

It claims ministers also want cuts in child obesity and smoking rates.

The government has refused to comment on the report, saying no decision has been made. But the HSJ said the targets would be announced in July.

According to the magazine, the targets will be published at the same time as the results of the government's comprehensive spending review, which will set out spending priorities for the next three years.

Extra money

Chancellor Gordon Brown has previously pledged to increase spending on the NHS at least until 2008.

In four years time, spending on the NHS is expected to top 100bn a year. This compares to 79bn this year.

No targets have yet been signed off by ministers
Spokesman,
Department of Health
The HSJ says it has seen a final draft of an agreement between the Treasury and the Department of Health, which will be published when the comprehensive spending review is announced.

It says the document includes tough new targets on waiting times and on public health.

The magazine says the Treasury will demand that all patients can start treatment within four-and-a-half months of being referred by a GP by 2008.

It will also call for a 10% cut in the number of people admitted to hospital as emergencies. The document suggests this could be achieved by improving the care given to patients with chronic diseases.

The magazine says the Treasury also wants the annual increase in child obesity rates to have been stopped by 2010.

In addition, it is calling for adult smoking rates to be reduced to 21% of the population by 2010. At the moment, the target is 24%.

The document also includes targets to increase average life expectancy for men by three years and for women by 2.5 years by 2010, according to the magazine.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Health said a final decision had still to be made.

"We don't comment on leaked documents. No targets have yet been signed off by ministers," he said.

Medical support

Professor Sian Griffiths, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said she would back a target to cut obesity rates.

"This is the sort of bold statement that we really need to reverse what is an epidemic-style curve," she told the HSJ.

Dr Michael Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance which represents primary care organisations, also backed the idea.

"It is good to see that these targets are looking at the things that really matter."

However, opposition parties were critical.

Shadow Health Secretary Tim Yeo said: "Labour is continuing to set targets despite evidence from NHS staff that they distort priorities."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Paul Burstow said: "These targets show that the government can not let go of its obsession with micromanaging the NHS."


SEE ALSO:
Children's diets 'must improve'
27 May 04  |  Health
NHS 'is seeing big improvements'
07 May 04  |  Health


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