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Friday, October 1, 1999 Published at 00:32 GMT 01:32 UK


'NHS rot has stopped'

Mr Dobson: "The foundations have been laid"

Health Secretary Frank Dobson has announced plans for better mental health services and more accessible primary health care.

In his speech to the Labour Party conference, Mr Dobson set out the first ever national standards for mental health treatment,and told delegates that people with mental health problems had not had the attention they deserved.


The BBC's Social Affairs Editor Niall Dickson reports on Frank Dobson's plan to set up another 17 walk-in health centres
Mr Dobson also announced the locations of an extra 17 free walk-in health centres to provide more user friendly primary care.

He also revealed that the so-called "supernurses" - highly trained consultant-grade nurses - could be paid up to £42,000 under new pay arrangements.

Mr Dobson said that the government's overall reforms of the health service were beginning to take effect.

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He said: "Two years into government, it would be stupid of me to claim the NHS has been transformed - but we have stopped the rot. The foundations have been laid."

He said that a 10-year programme of change would safeguard the NHS for "our children and our children's children".

He restated the government's commitment to boost NHS dentistry, saying that a new "phone and go" service to help patients locate NHS dentists would soon be up and running.

Mental health care

Mental health campaigners say that the quality of care someone with mental illness can expect varies widely across the country.

The National Service Framework for mental health sets clear standards for health and social services, requiring them to:

  • Combat discrimination against people with mental problems
  • Identify their needs and make sure they get treatment
  • Ensure the necessary hospital beds are available for those who need them
  • Respond to the needs of those carers looking after people with mental problems
  • Reduce the level of suicide

Click here for full details of the framework.

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Mr Dobson said: "It will spell out the range of services that should be provided in every part of the country, what standards should be set and how they will be met."

Campaigners gave a broad welcome to the framework, but many said it would need to be backed by substantially more cash than the government is currently investing in mental health..

The framework on mental health will be followed by fresh standards for the treatment of heart disease and diabetes, and for the long-term care of the elderly, he said.

"Step by step we will modernise treatment standards for every main condition."

He said: "We need to give patients extra options to back up traditional services."

Walk-in centres

Walk-in centres are to be created at a total of 36 sites across the UK, and the government is spending £31m this year on setting them up.

The aim of the centres is to give people access to doctors and nurses at more convenient times, such as late evenings and early mornings, and in town centre locations.

However, the British Medical Association has claimed the clinics threaten to "destabilise" primary care and the GP-patient relationship.

The BMA has called for the pace of change in the NHS to be slowed down, and for full consultation with doctors before futher developments are implemented.

Dr John Chisholm, chairman of the BMA's GP committee, said: "The BMA is not against change - we welcome anything that will improve the NHS - but we do ask for evidence-based change. Until we see the evidence the jury is still out on walk-in centres."

The new centres will open next year in Nottingham, Loughborough, Harlow, East London, North London, Croydon, Southampton, Weybridge, Woking, Slough, Bristol, Walsall, Coventry, Leigh, Bury, the Wirral and St Helens.

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