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Monday, October 11, 1999 Published at 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK


Milburn 'understands the NHS'

Alan Milburn worked on the NHS reforms

New Health Secretary Alan Milburn has built up a reputation for being a rarity among politicians - somebody who actually understands the workings of the NHS.

A Blairite moderniser, Mr Milburn, the MP for Darlington North, won a reputation as a tough, but effective negotiator during a 19-month stint as a junior health minister under Frank Dobson.

He was promoted to the Cabinet in December 1998 as Chief Secretary to the Treasury and has been tipped as a future prime minister.

As a junior health minister, he was put in charge of the controversial hospital building programme using private finance, but also worked closely on the NHS reforms that came into effect this April.

He won praise from the British Medical Association for his willingness to negotiate over the structure of the new system, and to listen to their concerns about the new primary care groups which have taken over responsibility for health service budgets from health authorities.

Top priorities for Mr Milburn will be to thrash out a deal with junior doctors who are threatening strike action on pay and conditions, and to boost the numbers of doctors and nurses in the health service.

BMA welcomes appointment

[ image: Dr Simon Fradd welcomed Mr Milburn's appointment]
Dr Simon Fradd welcomed Mr Milburn's appointment
Dr Simon Fradd, chairman of the Doctor-Patient Partnership and a member of both the British Medical Association's GP committee and the General Medical Council, welcomed Mr Milburn's appointment.

Dr Fradd said: "Mr Milburn proved his capabilities when he was a health minister, and it is a great advantage having somebody in post who knows the ropes.

"He has a knowledge of the health service, understands how it works and has demonstrated an awareness of the importance of demand management within the service."

Dr Robin Loveday, member of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association executive committee, said: "The HCSA is delighted that a person who has taken such an interest in health matters over many years and who has been junior health minister himself is now at a position to take charge as Secretary of State.

"He has an excellent track record in health and has shown a very good understanding of health matters over very many years.

"We have always felt this is a man who we can do business with."

The Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association (CPHVA) said Mr Milburn had a proven understanding of "the needs of those working in primary care and the patients they serve".

And Claire Rayner, president of the Patients Association, said: " I gave two and a half hearty cheers on hearing of Alan MIlburn's appointment.

"I will make it three when he proves that he will listen to the Patients Association, the voice of the patient."

Managers are upbeat

Mr Milburn's appointment was also welcomed by the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS managers.

Chief executive Stephen Thornton said: "This is an excellent move. He will bring a unique perspective from the Treasury and from leading the social exclusion agenda.

"We look forward to working with him on the modernisation of the NHS, the next comprehensive spending review and the broader health agenda."

Mr Milburn was made a minister in the health department following the general election victory in May 1997.

In opposition he built up a reputation a fierce critic of the Conservative's NHS internal market.

Prior to becoming an MP in 1992, Mr Milburn was co-ordinator of the Trade Union Studies Information Unit in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

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