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Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 14:56 GMT
'Politics put before patients'
Doctors and nurses at work
The NHS must be cut up, says Martin Taylor
Political targets set on the back of "national hysteria" surrounding the NHS are getting in the way of patient care, a top businessman has told MPs.

Martin Taylor, the WH Smith chairman who led an inquiry into the government's public-private partnerships, said the current climate made it unlikely the right decisions would be taken.


It is the natural consequence of excessive promises made in the past and a kind of national hysteria

Martin Taylor on NHS politics
Giving evidence to the Commons Public Administration select committee, Mr Taylor said: "There is almost more interest in preventing political problems arising from the NHS than in providing patient care.

"I think what happens to health is that targets are set which are essentially political targets - and the targets at the moment are waiting lists.

"I don't blame officials in this situation, I think it is the natural consequence of excessive promises made in the past and a kind of national hysteria.

NHS 'too big'

"It is just unlikely in the circumstances that the right things will be done. I think that is unfortunate."

Mr Taylor told the committee - investigating the reform of public services - that the NHS was too big to be managed by only one Whitehall department.

Tony Blair speaks to healthcare staff on Wednesday
Blair acknowledge a "huge gap" in NHS funding
"Nobody can run an organisation of a million people," said the former chief executive of Barclays Banks.

"The NHS must be cut up into smaller pieces - we will eventually get to a size of unit that can be properly managed."

Keeping the service as a whole would mean it fell victim to more inconsistencies, he went on.

Private sector involvement

Mr Taylor also argued that staff in public services were not obliged to change, which made it important to involve private companies to introduce competition, which was the "source of innovation".

The businessman's comments come a day after Tony Blair again stressed the need for reform in the NHS, while saying not all was bad in the service.

"The health service needs the investment, needs the reform but it does not need dismantling," he told members of NHS primary care trusts at a seminar in London.

While there was still a "huge gap" in healthcare funding, the government was beginning to tackle the problem, the prime minister added.

See also:

14 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Blair targets 'gap' in NHS funding
26 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Minister's hurry over waiting lists
09 Nov 01 | Health
Ofsted-style body for NHS
08 Nov 01 | Health
Public bill for PFI hospitals
27 Nov 98 | The Company File
The fall of the wonderkid
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