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Sunday, 4 June, 2000, 10:22 GMT 11:22 UK
'Radical reform' for NHS

Plans for NHS reform to provide quality care for all
UK Health Secretary Alan Milburn has called for radical reform of the NHS on the eve of a summit on the health service, being chaired by Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mr Milburn said the 2bn injection of funds towards schemes such as hospital programmes, critical care services and training more doctors and nurses had to accompanied by radical reform.

Mr Blair is to hold a summit to discuss a "root and branch" reform of the National Health Service when he returns to work on Monday.

Mr Blair's first day back at Downing Street, after two weeks' leave with his new son Leo, will focus on how to raise standards in the NHS, which is seen as crucial to Labour's chances of winning the next election.

Too many of its practices are just wrong

Alan Milburn, health secretary

Mr Milburn said the government had fallen into the trap of thinking the problem was lack of funding.

"It is a problem.. but also that system has to be overhauled," he told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme.


Mr Milburn, who will meet health ministers from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland at the joint medical committee on Monday, said the existing NHS belonged to a different era.

He said: "Too many of its practices are just wrong.

Alan Milburn: Wants to drag the NHS into the 21st Century

"The NHS was formed in 1948 when the consultant was king.

"We live in a different century and it is the consumer who is king."

He said the dedication of NHS staff and the original principles of providing care according to need, not ability to pay, were still strengths of the service.

But doctors such as Rodney Ledward, struck off for 16 years of botched gynaecological operations on dozens of women, should not be allowed to tarnish the good reputation of Britain's doctors.

Mr Milburn said fundamental issues for consideration included:

  • The difference in waiting times, appointments and casualty services throughout the country
  • The lack of national health standards and methods of policing them
  • A way of tackling poor performance and tackling the good work
  • Radical reform of the General Medical Council

"It is in the interest of the medical profession as well as patients that we bring about these changes to nip these problems in the bud," he said.

"We have to have a faster and better service, not just for some patients but for everybody."

'Crusading' politics

The emergency health meeting is scheduled ahead of a national plan for the health service expected to be unveiled by the Government at the end of July.

Comments and suggestions from the public consultation on the state of the NHS will also be incorporated into the plan.

Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe said Labour were finally coming round to recognising that reforms such as fundholding practices introduced under the Tory government were right.

Shadow social security secretary David Willetts said Labour had to be clear about its aims.

"They have had more crusades than Richard the Lionheart, more relaunches than the space shuttle," he said.

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01 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Apology over NHS poll mix-up
30 May 00 | Scotland
NHS staff in pay protest
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