[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 23 September 2006, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
Brown plans independent NHS board
Hospital ward -generic
The Labour conference will hear proposals for change in the NHS
Chancellor Gordon Brown is considering devolving day-to-day control of the NHS to an independent board, should he become prime minister.

His ideas, which he has asked health experts to examine in detail, are said to be central to more general plans to devolve power in the public services.

It is not known whether he will refer to the plans at the Labour conference.

The conference will hear other ministers' proposals for an NHS constitution, like the BBC charter.

Under Mr Brown's plans for a devolved NHS board, ministers would be kept at arm's length, their role limited to setting the NHS budget and strategic objectives.

'Bankrupt of ideas'

But the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned Mr Brown's proposals do not address the current problems facing the health service.

BMA chairman James Johnson said: "If you hand the detail over to somebody else but leave the strategy with politicians, it will do nothing to remove the current criticisms of the direction in which the Government is taking the NHS.

"It is the strategy which needs to be at arm's length."

The Conservatives said the plans show Mr Brown is adopting Tory policies.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: "It looks like Gordon Brown is bankrupt of ideas. We welcome the fact that Gordon Brown is now turning to the Conservative Party for his policy direction."

'Repeat stink'

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Steve Webb said: "This appears to be a belated recognition that nine years of New Labour meddling in the NHS has caused profound damage and destabilisation.

"But even now, Gordon Brown doesn't understand what real accountability means. Would this new board be accountable to central government or to British citizens?"

Almost anything that would insulate ministers from having to stand up in the House of Commons and defend everything that goes on in the NHS is a good idea
Prof Julian Le Grand
Former adviser to Tony Blair

One of the chancellor's close allies, Ed Balls MP, predicted more devolution in public sector services under Mr Brown.

He said the chancellor had a past record of devolving policy from ministers - such as the decision to make the Bank of England responsible for interest rates.

"The track record so far has been about devolution in important areas of policy - on monetary policy, on financial services policy, on local government and regional policy too," he told the BBC.

"I think we could see more of that in public services delivery as well."

Mr Brown is due to make a key speech to the Labour Party conference on Monday.

It will be Tony Blair's last conference as prime minister ahead of his resignation some time over the next 12 months.

Chancellor Gordon Brown
I think there is an agreement that having a leadership election... could be a good thing for the Labour Party
John Hutton
Work and Pensions Secretary

Details of Mr Brown's NHS proposals emerged as two Blairite ministers published a pamphlet setting out similar proposals for NHS reform.

Reports suggest the proposal will show that Mr Blair is determined to push an ambitious policy agenda before he leaves office.

The proposals, which set boundaries over the extent of privatisation, are part of a new package of ideas put forward by MPs, including health minister Andy Burnham and pensions reform minister James Purnell.

The ministers say the NHS would be publicly accountable with less central control.

Mr Burnham said that while they had drawn up their proposals independently of Mr Brown, it showed the way that thinking in government was converging.

"I think what you will find, what Gordon Brown has been saying does demonstrate the coherence of thinking amongst the government," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Particularly it is very much in tune with what Tony Blair and [Health Secretary] Patricia Hewitt have been saying.

"Devolving power to the very frontline is clearly the way, I think, we have to go in the future."

How the proposed NHS board will work

Why an independent NHS board?
23 Sep 06 |  Health
Hutton call to 'challenge' Brown
23 Sep 06 |  UK Politics
Health secretary defends sell-off
12 Sep 06 |  UK Politics

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific