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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 March 2008, 14:32 GMT
Johnson wants 'personalised' NHS
Alan Johnson
Mr Johnson will urge GPs to accept the extended hours offer
The health secretary has said he wants to turn the NHS in England into a more "personalised" service.

Alan Johnson told Labour's spring conference in Birmingham that the days of a "one-size-fits-all" NHS are over and people should have more choice.

He repeated his pledge for GPs to open at weekends and evenings.

And he said extended opening hours are not just useful for commuters and hard-pressed City "hot shots", but for hourly-paid manual workers as well.

Loggerheads

Mr Johnson said: "The days of patients being the passive recipients of one-size-fits-all service are over."

While pointing to "dramatic reductions" in deaths from cancer and heart disease, he said the NHS faced new challenges, such as obesity, growing mental health problems and an ageing population.

The government and doctors' union, the British Medical Association, have been at loggerheads over the plans for extended surgery opening hours.

Mr Johnson urged GPs to accept the deal, which will see an average-sized practice with 6,000 patients open an extra three hours a week.

Mr Johnson told delegates: "I hope that GPs will agree to provide extra appointments at weekends or evenings. This is not just for the benefit of commuters who struggle to see their doctor.

"When surgeries in Canary Wharf opened early in the morning their first patients were not City hot shots, but hourly-paid manual workers who lost money, or worse their jobs, if they didn't go to work."

Mr Johnson also said plans would be unveiled to let elderly married couples live together in residential care.

"When a couple have lived all their lives together they should not be forced apart at the end of their lives," he said.

Mr Johnson added: "This will be part of our increasing focus on adult social care."

Carer changes

Labour has made reform of public services the key theme of its spring conference, with Schools Secretary Ed Balls pledging to speed up Labour's academy schools programme, which has proved controversial with local education authorities.

Women's minister Harriet Harman has also outlined plans to allow people caring for elderly relatives to go out to work without losing benefits.

Ms Harman told BBC One's Andrew Marr programme the changes would mean people "who care for elderly relatives don't have to throw in their jobs".

In her conference speech she pledged more support for families where "mum is looking after granny as well as looking after the kids".

She added: "We weren't afraid of being called the nanny state and we won't be afraid of being called the granny state either"

Carers are currently entitled to an allowance of 48 a week - but only if they earn no more than 95 a week. If they earn more they lose the right to an allowance.

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