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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 January 2007, 22:51 GMT
Hewitt urges NHS 'transformation'
Patricia Hewitt
Ms Hewitt denied the NHS was in chaos
The NHS must be transformed to ensure its survival, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has said.

A series of radical reforms being pushed through by the government would deliver faster, more effective care, she told the Sunday Mirror newspaper.

Ms Hewitt said she did not believe the NHS was "on the critical list", despite recent reports of staff shortfalls.

The service will be short of 14,000 nurses and 2,300 doctors by the end of the decade, some reports have warned.

'Back in balance'

In the interview, Ms Hewitt insisted she would not be forced to resign after promising to quit if the NHS had not broken even by March.

The NHS ended the financial year 2005-06 more than 500m overdrawn. Managers have been told to bring finances back into the black by the end of this financial year.

Ms Hewitt said: "I am confident that the NHS will be back in balance by the end of this financial year, as we have promised.

"The NHS has been saved, but it still needs to be transformed
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt

"When the NHS achieves this, it will not only have lived within its budget for this year, but have paid back its debt from the previous year and be in a strong position to continue driving forward the improvements in patient care that will assure its future for another generation, true to its founding values."

She said: "The NHS has been saved, but it still needs to be transformed to ensure that it will survive for another generation."

Surgeons at work
Reports suggest the NHS may be short of 2,300 doctors in a decade

The health secretary also defended the renegotiation of GPs' contracts in 2004 which saw doctors' average annual pay rise to around 100,000, with some family doctors earning as much as 250,000 a year.

She denied accusations the NHS was "in chaos".

"It is grossly unfair to hard-working NHS staff to claim that the NHS is in chaos," she said.

"Certainly there are problems which are being tackled, but there have been huge improvements," she told the paper.

The predictions of a shortfall in NHS staff were reported in the Health Service Journal last week.

It was quoting a leaked Department of Health paper which said that there would be a shortage of GPs and nurses in four years' time, but the NHS would have to shed hospital doctors.

Shortage of NHS staff predicted
04 Jan 07 |  Health

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