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Thursday, 29 November, 2001, 17:26 GMT
Wanless 'open' to private finance
Health service staff
The divide is growing over health funding
The author of an influential report on NHS funding, Derek Wanless, has said he would not rule out private financing.

The service is not meeting patients' expectations and we are falling behind other countries

Derek Wanless
Mr Wanless' report was championed by Chancellor Gordon Brown on Tuesday, as he set out the case for substantially more public money for the NHS.

Both Mr Brown and the Prime Minister Tony Blair have made it clear they would consider tax rises to improve the health service.

The Conservatives believe the NHS needs to be restructured and are conducting a review of funding systems used in other European countries.

Chancellor's delight

To the chancellor's delight, Mr Wanless concluded the current funding system was fair and efficient.

He (Gordon Brown) fixed the terms of reference for the Wanless Report so that it could only consider a publicly-funded health care model

Michael Howard, shadow chancellor
However, Mr Wanless, the former chief executive of NatWest bank, admitted on Thursday that - at the present moment - it was was failing patients.

He said he was still in favour of the current system continuing - but would not rule out other forms of financing the NHS in the future, such as the use of social insurance.

'Falling behind'

Setting out his findings, Mr Wanless said: "The present position is not satisfactory.

Derek Wanless
Wanless: 'NHS is failing patients'
"The service is not meeting patients' expectations and we are falling behind other countries.

"But I believe it is right to conduct this review on the basis of the continuation of the present system."

He added: "I have not sought to bury anything for good. It would be quite presumptuous and premature to do that."

'Fixing the debate'

Shadow chancellor Michael Howard said the Conservatives were enthusiastic about a debate on the future of health care in Britain.

But he accused Mr Brown of 'fixing' the outcome before it had got under way.

In an address to the Association of British Health Care Industries' annual dinner, Mr Howard said. "He fixed the terms of reference for the Wanless Report so that it could only consider a publicly-funded health care model.

"And he insists for reasons of Labour dogma on a service exclusively funded from taxation."

'Painting himself into a corner'

Mr Howard said the biggest difference between Britain and countries with better health care, is "the extent to which they are able to bring in private sector resources supplementary to their public provision to help tackle health care problems."

"Despite this inescapable fact, Gordon Brown is not prepared to learn any lessons from any other country.

"He has painted himself, the prime minister and the Government into a corner."

"Britain will never get the health care it deserves by following the Brown route.

"We shall provide a better alternative," Mr Howard added.

'World class' system

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says meeting Mr Blair's target of raising helath spending to the European average, would cost another 10bn a year on top of Tuesday's announcements.

In his pre-Budget report, Mr Brown announced an extra 1bn for the NHS next year but said in future a "significantly higher share of national income" would have to be found to fund a "world class" health service.

The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Your taxes will go up"
Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown
"I do not rule out tax rises"
Dr Peter Hawker, British Medical Association
"This is a long-term project that is vital to the health of the nation"
The BBC's Justin Webb
compares Germany's health service to the NHS
See also:

28 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Downing Street fuels tax speculation
27 Nov 01 | Business
Brown pressed to give green Budget
27 Nov 01 | UK
Hauliers welcome tax move
28 Nov 01 | Business
How big could tax rises be?
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