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Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 11:42 GMT
Blair targets 'gap' in NHS funding
Tony Blair addresses the NHS seminar
Mr Blair stressed reforms were necessary too
There is still a "huge gap" to make up in NHS funding, Tony Blair has said as he turns his attention from the war on terror to the UK domestic agenda.

The prime minister was highlighting government plans published last week, which aim to put 75% of the health service budget directly into the hands of doctors and nurses.

The health service needs the investment, needs the reform but it does not need dismantling

Tony Blair
Speaking at the start of a seminar for members of NHS primary care trusts, Mr Blair praised healthcare staff and acknowledged the task ahead for the health service.

But he argued the government's spending plans meant a start had been made in filling the funding gap.

'Certainty to plan ahead'

"There is now substantial investment going into the NHS, a 35% real terms increase in the next three years," he said.

"But we are aware of the fact that there is a huge gap to make up and this is a process that is beginning.

"We are beginning to put in substantial sums of investment year on year."

Nurses and doctors are to get greater financial control
He hoped those spending plans would give NHS staff some certainty to allow them to plan for the future.

Reforms were necessary if extra money being invested in the NHS was to be utilised effectively, Mr Blair went on.

The prime minister dubbed the devolving of power to the new primary care trusts as "part of an enormous plan of change" for the UK's public services.

Earlier, a spokesman for the prime minister said that if there were situations where those responsible for the budgets failed to meet the required standards then people would be put in to help sort the situation out.

The plans being highlighted by Mr Blair were set out in last Friday's NHS Bill.

'No dismantling'

The prime minister himself said he was constantly striving to get across the message that there were both "good and bad things" happening in the NHS.

"The health service needs the investment, needs the reform but it does not need dismantling," he said.

"You cannot reach a stage where every time a doctor or consultant makes a mistake that means that the NHS is poor.

"In any healthcare system there are going to be mistakes but I think the bill for medical negligence in the United States is proportionately double what it is in this country."

After his speech, Mr Blair took part in a private workshop with some of his audience.

See also:

14 Nov 01 | Health
NHS staff spending variation
09 Nov 01 | Health
1,000 for a nursing shift
09 Nov 01 | Health
Ofsted-style body for NHS
08 Nov 01 | Health
Public bill for PFI hospitals
16 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Labour 'won't flinch' from reform
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