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Niall Dickson reports for BBC News
"Leading doctors have backed Lord Winston's claim"
 real 28k

Lord Winston talks to the BBC
"I'm very very surprised at the reaction to what I said"
 real 28k

Caroline Wyatt reports from Poland
"Standards of healthcare still fall far short of those in the west"
 real 28k

Peter Wilby, Editor of New Statesman
"He's trying to put a different construction on his words"
 real 28k

Barry Jackson, Royal College of Surgeons
"The money that is being put in is not enough"
 real 28k

Health Secretary Alan Milburn
"We have made a good start on the NHS"
 real 28k

Friday, 14 January, 2000, 23:03 GMT
NHS funding row grows

Lord Winston: Poland's health service is "better funded"


Government funding of the health service is at the centre of a political row after criticism from a leading medical expert who is also a Labour peer.

Lord Winston said he stood by controversial statements that the government needed to examine new ways of funding the NHS.

But he also attempted to water down other remarks he made during a controversial interview with New Statesman magazine after talking to the prime minister's official spokesman, a move that led to Tory accusations of "bullying".


We have made medical care deeply unsatisfactory for a lot of people
Lord Winston
In particular, he retracted a statement saying the government was being misleading when it said it had abolished the internal market within the health service and said he basically backed government policy.

In the interview he also suggested Poland spent more on healthcare than Britain. In fact, Britain spends 6.7% of its GDP on health compared with 5.3% in Poland.

The figure however, is still lower than France's healthcare spending at 9.9% and Germany's at 10.4%.

The cure, Lord Winston said, would be to consider either private insurance or an increase in taxation to make good the shortfall.

'A personal view'

Lord Winston, who was made a peer by Tony Blair, told the BBC: "Successive governments - and this one included - have not yet paid sufficient attention to the needs for funding that are going to be required for the future of the health service.

"My own view - it's a personal view that might not be shared by the government - is that we need to find new ways of restructuring the funding for the health service."

Health care could deteriorate, Lord Winston said
Despite the thrust of his remarks, Lord Winston insisted he had not meant his interview with the New Statesman to be seen as a criticism of the government.

The New Statesman has stood by everything written in the interview.

In the New Statesman interview, Lord Winston states: "It's not good enough to say we're going to spend 20bn over 35 years or whatever.

"Do we want a health service that is steadily going to deteriorate and be more and more rationed and will be inferior on vital areas such as heart disease and cancer, compared to our less well-off neighbours?

'We have made a start'

"That is the way it is going at the moment. If we don't want that, then we pay more tax or have an insurance system. I see no alternative."

Health Secretary Alan Milburn responded to the remarks by defending the government's record.

He said: "Nobody pretends that we can turn round the NHS overnight.

"What we have consistently said is that to turn around the NHS will take 10 years, and we have begun that process."

Mr Milburn said the government had scrapped the internal market, ended the system of competition in the NHS and freed up money previously tied up in red tape.

'Labour mismanagement'

He said an extra 4.6% a year was being pumped into the health service for the next three years - 50% above the trend rate of growth in the NHS.

"We have given the NHS this year, next year and the year after the biggest cash injection in its history. That is a good start, but we know there is more to do.

"As we get a growing economy, so we can get more money into the NHS."

Shadow health secretary Liam Fox said: "Given Lord Winston's credentials, his comments are an astonishing condemnation of Tony Blair's incompetence in running the NHS.

"The prime minister's chronic mismanagement of the health service has thrown it into acute crisis.

"Everybody outside the Labour Party knows that - the truth is obviously now getting closer to home."

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See also:
14 Jan 00 |  UK
Lord Winston: 'Miracle' worker
14 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Winston attack puts Milburn on back foot
13 Jan 00 |  Health
Cancer inoperable after flu delay
12 Jan 00 |  Health
People are suffering, admits Blair
13 Jan 00 |  Health
Flu 'may have peaked'
11 Jan 00 |  Health
Flu crisis blamed on ministers
01 Jul 98 |  UK Politics
Dobson promises more NHS cash

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