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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 November 2007, 00:30 GMT
Brown 'must back independent NHS'
Hospital ward
The Tories say they want to free the NHS from bureaucracy
The Conservatives have urged Gordon Brown to back their proposals to make the NHS in England independent.

They propose an NHS constitution and an independent board to take on the health department's responsibilities, and free the NHS from "political tinkering".

The health secretary would then be free to focus on public health issues like obesity and smoking, the Tories said.

But the government said it was wrong that taxpayers should pay 90bn without political accountability for the NHS.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley outlined a draft NHS (Autonomy and Accountability) Bill, which the Conservatives will introduce in the next Parliamentary session either as an opposition bill, or a private members' bill.

Patient voice

It would need the government's support to stand any chance of becoming law.

The Tories say they want to work with the government to bring in the changes by next July - the 60th anniversary of the NHS.

The NHS is being held back by top down targets and suffocating bureaucracy
Andrew Lansley

Other proposals include making the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence independent, and giving patients a "stronger voice" through a new body - Healthwatch.

An NHS constitution would also be put into legislation to enshrine the principles of the health service.

Mr Lansley said the prime minister had talked about independence for the NHS and cutting political interference, but had no proposals to do so.

Accountability

He said: "The government has failed - somebody needs to set out a coherent structure for long-term reform"

The bill was a "template" for that and if the government will not introduce it, a future Conservative government would, he said.

Mr Lansley said: "The NHS is being held back by top down targets and suffocating bureaucracy.

Under Tory plans, ministers would be powerless to intervene where a hospital is failing
Ben Bradshaw
Health minister

"We have to free up doctors and nurses and those who deliver care for patients. We need to give patients more choice and voice over their health care."

He added that the health secretary would not be able to argue "it's nothing to do with me" if things went wrong - as he or she would still have powers to direct the NHS Board and would still be able to intervene if necessary.

But health minister Ben Bradshaw said: "It is simply wrong to suggest that taxpayers should invest 90bn in the NHS but there should be no political accountability for how that money is spent.

"Under Tory plans, ministers would be powerless to intervene where a hospital is failing."

He said Tory plans to scrap targets would mean a return to long waiting lists and said there was a "black hole" in Tory finance plans that would jeopardise investment in the NHS.

In June, the then health secretary Patricia Hewitt said the NHS was too vast to be run by a board and suggested it would turn it into "a 1960s nationalised industry."



SEE ALSO
Tories pledge 'independent NHS'
20 Jun 07 |  UK Politics

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