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Thursday, 27 July, 2000, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
Hague: NHS Plan 'admission of failure'
nurse and patient
Mr Hague says the nursing profession is in crisis
Tony Blair's plan to overhaul the NHS has been dubbed "a stark admission of his total failure on health for the last three years" by Conservative leader William Hague.

He accused the prime minister of failing to mention Labour's election pledge to cut waiting lists as he set out the most ambitious scheme for reforming the health service in 50 years.

And the opposition leader condemned Mr Blair for "breaking every promise he had made" on health in three years.


We all remember before the last election when he said we had 24 hours to save the NHS

Now it's 10 years in a four-year plan


William Hague
Mr Hague launched his criticisms after Mr Blair had presented his NHS plans to the House of Commons.

The 10-year blueprint involves a host of radical reforms, including scrapping some charges for nursing home care and giving consultants proper NHS job descriptions.

Mr Hague agreed with Mr Blair's praise of NHS staff, who were its "greatest asset" and he welcomed changes to nurses' roles.

He also welcomed Mr Blair's apparent acceptance of using the private sector, which came after "years of hypocritical attacks" on Tories for advocating it.

'Hidden costs'

But, he said, there was as usual a vast gulf between the announcement and reality.

patient on trolley
Mr Hague says patients must be treated according to need
Mr Hague said the 7,000 extra beds Mr Blair had announced included private beds. And free nursing home care would not include items such as dressings, which would still be charged for.

The plan involved some GPs being salaried and others not, when a two-tier system was supposed to be scrapped, the Tory leader charged.

"Will he confirm that an extraordinary number of the targets in his four-year plan are not going to be met for eight or 10 years, if at all?" he demanded.

Accusing Mr Blair of not mentioning the waiting list initiative, he went on: "Is that not a stark admission of his total failure on health for the last three years?

"We all remember before the last election when he said we had 24 hours to save the NHS. Now it's 10 years in a four-year plan."

During the 1997 election campaign, Labour pledged to cut waiting lists by at least 100,000.

'Mismanagement'

Mr Hague listed a string Mr Blair's "failures":

  • Waiting lists to see consultants were up by 154,000,

  • The number of cardiac bypass operations had fallen for the first time in a quarter of a century,

  • The nursing profession was facing its most severe shortages for a generation,

  • And 140,000 NHS patients were forced to pay privately for their care in a year.

    He taunted Mr Blair over the leaked Labour memo saying "TB has not delivered".

    "It is against that background of mismanagement and failure that people will judge today's plan," Mr Hague said.

    He wanted to know whether the sickest patients would be treated first, whether NHS consultants would be banned from private work and what Mr Blair would do to ensure real choice on hospitals.

    'Waiting lists falling'

    Mr Blair retorted that Mr Hague didn't have a clue on serious policy.

    The prime minister said there were 10,000 more nurses now than under the Conservatives.

    "It is true that waiting lists, in-patient and outpatient, were rising for years when we came to office," he said.

    "We have brought down the in-patient lists by more than we promised at the election. It is correct that outpatient lists have gone up. It is correct that those are coming down now but they were rising year after year when they were in office."

    To rowdy Commons scenes, Mr Blair also condemned Mr Hague's record when he was Tory Welsh Secretary.

    And he accused Conservatives of planning 16bn of cuts.

    "What is clear... is that on the NHS, they are more extreme than ever."

  • See also:

    27 Jul 00 | NHS reform
    27 Jul 00 | UK Politics
    28 Jun 00 | UK Politics
    19 Jul 00 | NHS reform
    13 Jul 00 | Health
    11 Jul 00 | UK Politics
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