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The BBC's Niall Dickson
"The government is determined to drive up standards"
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Health Secretary Alan Milburn
"The National Health Service has to be reformed from within"
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Monday, 25 June, 2001, 04:23 GMT 05:23 UK
Milburn gives NHS pledge
Alan Milburn
Alan Milburn: 'Clinical need still NHS priority'
Health Secretary Alan Milburn has stepped into the row over private funding of public services by pledging core NHS principles "are not up for sale".

Mr Milburn said the private sector did not have the necessary skills or experience to run hospitals.

The core NHS principles are not up for sale

Alan Milburn
He is due to set out plans instead under which successful NHS managers would form teams to take over the running of new health authorities as well as failing hospitals.

Expanding partnerships with the private sector is part of Tony Blair's drive to achieve the radical improvements in Britain's public services at the heart of Labour's second term in office.

But the policy has already triggered widespread concern from within the Labour movement.

And an influential think tank, the Institute of Public Policy Research, is calling for radical reform in the way the private sector is brought into public services.

Clinical need

The health secretary attempted to diffuse the growing row by stressing: "The core NHS principles are not up for sale.

"Care will still be based on clinical need, not the ability to pay, and services will continue to be free at the point of use."

Mr Milburn believes the private sector does not have the expertise to take over the NHS and reform will have to come from within.

Using league tables to measure performance, the government will order that failing hospitals and other services are taken over by consortia of management teams from successful hospitals.

Management incentives

They would also be able to bid to run health authorities.

Details of the scheme, including incentives for managers, have yet to be worked out.

But the government is determined to use what it calls "public sector entrepreneurs" to drive up standards.

Although some critics on the left may be reassured by Mr Milburn's commitment to a publicly run health service, others will criticise the proposal as another form of "blame and shame".

And opponents on the right are likely to reject it as muddled thinking.

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See also:

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Blair warned over private funding
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