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NHS reform Thursday, 27 July, 2000, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
Blair unveils NHS blueprint
Modernistion of the NHS
Alan Milburn will be responsible for the reforms
A "fundamental" 10-year blueprint for NHS reform in England, including a six-month waiting list limit, has been announced by the government.

The NHS Plan reveals in great detail how extra billions for health will be spent.

Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons he planned to reshape the NHS to match patient need - and recreate a health service envied by the world.

But Tory leader William Hague accused the government of "mismanagement and failure."

Among the dozens of announcements are:

  • Extra hospital investment - 7,000 extra beds and 100 new building schemes.
  • Patients will be guaranteed an appointment with their GP within 48 hours by 2004
  • Money to pay for 7,500 new consultants, 2,000 new GPs, 20,000 new nurses and another 6,500 professional staff
  • From 2002, if an operation is cancelled on the day of surgery for non-medical reasons, that operation must take place within 28 days, either within the NHS or the private sector.
  • New contracts for senior doctors to ensure they devote much of their time to the NHS.
  • By the end of 2005, maximum waiting times for outpatient appointments will be three months, and for inpatient procedures six months
  • Children aged four to six in infant schools will receive a free piece of fruit
  • Umbrella group to tighten regulation of doctors and nurses by overseeing the bodies that currently discipline them

Even hospital food will be revamped - with the promise of menus created by "leading chefs" available 24 hours a day.

However, the government has decided not to fully fund the costs of long-term care of the elderly, despite the recommendations of a Royal Commission.

Instead, only the medical costs will be funded - social care costs, like home helps, and part of nursing home charges, will not.

However, elderly people in care for less than three months will not have the value of their house taken into account when their means are assessed, said ministers.

The aim is clear - to re-design the health service system around the needs of the individual patient

Tony Blair
Outlining the plan to the House of Commons on Thursday, Mr Blair said: "Our task is to provide both the money and the reform to make sure the health service and its founding principles live on and prosper into the 21st century.

"The challenge is to make the health service once again the healthcare system the world most envies.

"The aim is clear - to re-design the health service system around the needs of the individual patient."

He said that access to free healthcare regardless of your social position or wealth was a "timeless principle" that would be preserved.

However, Mr Hague said: "The only difference between now and the pledges in his manifesto four years ago is that he has set them so far into the future that he cannot possibly be held to account on whether they are met or not."

Tony Blair promised that the NHS would listen to patients

Health Secretary Alan Milburn said: "This is the most fundamental and far-reaching reform programme.

"For the first time the government has faced up to the breadth and depth of problems in the NHS and has addressed them all in turn."

Vanessa Bourne, from the Patients' Association, was sceptical about the plan: "A lot of this is just headline 'let's have it like this', but the reality may be very difficult to get right.

The reality may be very difficult to get right

Vanessa Bourne, Patients' Association
"I would have liked to have seen a really fundamental look at some of the fault lines that have existed in the NHS for 50 years."

The plan was drawn up by five action groups, headed by health ministers and comprising 100 health professionals.

Other reforms planned include:

  • Expansion of cancer screening programmes to include more people and more types of cancer
  • Rapid access chest pain clinics to diagnose heart problems more swiftly
  • 1,000 specialist GPs performing some of the tasks of consultants

Mr Blair promised cleaner wards and better hospital food, and announced that by 2002, 95% of mixed sex wards would have gone.

The reforms are made possible by Chancellor Gordon Brown's announcement of the single-biggest injection of money into the NHS.

He pledged to increase health spending by more than a third, from 50bn to 69bn annually, over the next five years.

The announcement of extra cash followed a devastating winter crisis in the NHS and a subsequent pledge from Mr Blair to bring UK health spending up to the European average.


The government has called on NHS workers to embrace the reforms, and create a high quality service.

In return, doctors and other NHS staff will be rewarded with, in some cases, extra pay and better career opportunities.

In particular, nurses are to be given more responsibility and extra tasks.

Some of the key changes will centre on making the NHS more patient-friendly, while others look to tackle the causes of ill-health with prevention strategies.

And a return to the era of the "cottage hospital" has been signalled, with investment rising to 900m a year by 2003/4 for "intermediate care" for the less seriously-ill, elderly, or patients recuperating from operations.

The BBC's Robin Oakley
"Reforms will bring battles with staff"
Prime Minister Tony Blair
"Now with the money going in, the reforms can follow "
Tory leader William Hague
"This plan is an admission of failure"
See also:

27 Jul 00 | NHS reform
27 Jul 00 | NHS reform
27 Jul 00 | UK Politics
27 Jul 00 | NHS reform
26 Jul 00 | Health
27 Jul 00 | UK
25 Jul 00 | UK Politics
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