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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 July 2007, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Johnson seeks to soothe NHS anger
Surgeons operating
There are over 9.4m referrals for non-emergency care a year
New Health Secretary Alan Johnson has sought to soothe anger over reforms by announcing a "once in a generation review" of the NHS in England.

Mr Johnson has asked Health Minister Sir Ara Darzi, a practising surgeon, to consult with patients and staff amid much frustration with change.

The review could lead to an NHS constitution setting out its values, priorities and lines of accountability.

But doctors said the move was not needed as the problems were clear.

Mr Johnson told the House of Commons he accepted the government had not managed to keep the medical profession "on board" during its reform programme.

This is an admission of failure after 10 years of this government. They are still searching for strategic direction
Norman Lamb, of the Lib Dems

He said there had been a huge amount of change to transform the NHS, but he was now looking to "forge a new partnership with the profession" and promised there would be no more structural change.

In recent months, both doctors and nurses have expressed anger at targets and the increasing competition that has been introduced into the health service.

Sir Ara's report, due to be completed next year but with an interim assessment due in the autumn to inform the comprehensive spending review, will look at:

  • Putting clinical decisions at the heart of NHS service delivery
  • Improving patient care, particularly for those with long-term and life-threatening conditions
  • Making care more accessible and convenient
  • Establishing a vision for the next decade based "less on central direction and more on patient control"

Mr Johnson also announced there would be an extra 50million to fight hospital-based infections with a doubling in the size of inspection teams.

'Turbulent waters'

He said: "If the morale and goodwill of the profession dissipates, then our capacity for bringing about improvement for patients diminishes.

The Department of Health has no vision of where the NHS is going
Andrew Lansley
Shadow Health Secretary

"We must acknowledge that we have not managed to keep the profession on board as we have steered a path through the turbulent waters of change.

"Having addressed the funding shortfall and put the necessary reforms in place, we will give the NHS the sustained period of organisational and financial stability it requires."

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said morale among staff was at "rock bottom".

He said: "This statement has given patients and health professionals nothing and failed to tackle immediate issues.

"The Department of Health has no vision of where the NHS is going."

Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb said: "This is an admission of failure after 10 years of this government. They are still searching for strategic direction."

And Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association, said: "It is disappointing that the government feels it needs to undertake a review when the problems of the NHS have been apparent to the BMA, and others, for many months."

Niall Dickson, of the independent think tank the King's Fund, said: "To deliver workable recommendations, the review must be driven by local NHS organisations with everything orientated around what is best value care for patients."

Nick Bosanquet, professor of health policy at Imperial College London and consultant director of the Reform think tank, said: "A year-long review risks damaging delay when practical solutions are needed now."

Dr Gill Morgan, of the NHS Confederation, said: "We hope that this is not just another review, but a genuine exercise in listening and understanding where the service has got to and where it needs to go."

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