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Last Updated: Monday, 21 June, 2004, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Tories plan big changes for NHS
Surgery
Waiting lists for surgery would be abolished
The Tories have pledged to scrap all central targets for NHS hospitals, including waiting lists.

Andrew Lansley, the new Shadow Health Secretary, said the government's star rating system would also go.

Speaking ahead of an official policy launch on Wednesday, Mr Lansley said he was determined to give patients greater and better informed choice.

Health professionals would be freed from bureaucracy, he said, and given the power to set their own priorities.

Under the Tories, foundation hospitals - set up by the current government despite much opposition from within the Labour Party - would be given even greater flexibility to borrow and invest in additional facilities.

We want a patient-centred health service.
Andrew Lansley
He highlighted a new opinion poll of doctors which found 82% feel that red tape prevents them from devoting as much attention to their patients as they want.

The poll, by doctors.net.uk, also found that 95% of those questioned agreed that pressure to comply with government targets distorted clinical priorities, and two-thirds believed ministers had failed to ensure extra funding had been largely spent on frontline patient care.

Mr Lansley said that under Labour, spending on non-clinical NHS staff, including administrators, had risen from 3bn to 5bn in England alone, while the number of managers and senior managers had increased at almost triple the rate of new doctors and nurses.

The NHS had been forced to deal with far too many centrally imposed targets.

Diktats

"We want a patient-centred health service," said Mr Lansley.

"The hundreds of targets means that, at present, the service responds to the Department of Health diktats not patients' needs and choices.

"Performance management should be the responsibility of NHS Trusts themselves and patients' right to choose will be the incentive needed to shape services and promote innovation and efficiency.

"In place of bureaucratic targets, we need to establish that clinical standards, based on evidence and best practice determine the quality of care the NHS provides."

A Labour Party spokesperson said: "If you look at the Tories' record you can understand why they don't believe in targets.

"The Tories gave everyone in the 1990s the freedom to wait over two years.

"We make no apology for halving the maximum waiting time from 18 months to nine months and we want will go further.

"Now 19 out of 20 people are now seen diagnosed and treated in A&E within four hours - thanks to tough targets.

"It's no surprise the Tories want people to wait longer in pain - their only worked out policy is a subsidy to encourage people to go private - and long waiting lists have been the historic reason why some have paid to go private."

Unpopular

Liberal Democrats described the Tory polices as "tired and unpopular".

Paul Burstow, the party's health spokesman, said: "The Conservatives are obsessed with bricks and mortar rather than making sure that healthcare professionals are able to deliver the right care at the right time and in the right place.

"Healthcare must be brought closer to home by developing Primary Care Services and expanding the roles of nurses, therapists and other healthcare workers.

"The real challenges are to tackle the causes of ill-health and ensure that the growing number of people with long-term conditions are given the opportunity to take control of their own healthcare."

Doctors.net.uk surveyed 200 doctors earlier this month.




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