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EDITIONS
Thursday, 27 July, 2000, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Plan should go further: Kennedy
nursing home
Lib Dems say personal care should be free, too
The Liberal Democrats have criticised the government's NHS reform plan for not going far enough in two key areas.

They say personal, as well as basic nursing home care, should be made free for anyone in long-term care.


We didn't get as much money in the first two years into the health service as we would have liked

Tony Blair
And they want access to NHS dentists to be improved.

Mr Blair's 10-year health blueprint, unveiled in the Commons, involves a host of radical reforms, including cutting waiting lists, scrapping some charges for nursing home care and providing thousands of extra doctors and nurses.

Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy gave his backing to the plan, saying his party hoped it succeeded.

'Basic dignity'

But he said the years of under-investment referred to by Mr Blair included the first three years of his own government.

If the NHS had failed to invest sufficiently in building and equipment, it was the fault of politicians, and the public was partly to blame for its choice at the ballot box.


For the people that leave hospital ... today means there will be a lot more people leaving with a smile on their face

Dennis Skinner
If personal care was not provided for free in nursing homes, a person suffering from dementia, for example, would have to pay for being bathed, fed and clothed - "an issue of basic dignity".

He also wanted to know what the government's plans for dentistry were.

"All of us, at constituency level, know the real difficulties people are having, even getting registered with a dentist, let alone getting and affording treatment," he said.

'Jingoistic soundbites'

But Mr Kennedy went on: "We want this national plan to succeed, we really do, it's in all our interests.

"If these promises are delivered, there will be better to come for the health service and I share the prime minister's hope that better is to come and the whole nation will want that betterment to be delivered."

And he branded Mr Hague's speech as "jingoistic, simplistic soundbites, pre-prepared with no attention to the detail whatsoever".

Mr Blair accepted "we didn't get as much money in the first two years into the health service as we would have liked" but it was to help provide the basis for a stable economy.

On personal care funding, the prime minister said: "We have decided that it is better to spend the 900m on intermediate care rather than making all personal care free."

And by the end of September 2001, everyone would have access to an NHS dentist, Mr Blair told MPs.

Private care worries

David Hinchliffe, Labour chairman of the health select committee, welcomed the plans.

But he warned of unease over the proposed relationship with the private health care sector.


If these promises are delivered, there will be better to come for the health service

Charles Kennedy
The prime minister said the government's proposal was, where necessary, to provide private health care delivery within the NHS - a "key distinction" between Labour and the Tories.

Labour veteran Dennis Skinner welcomed the plan, saying: "For the people that leave that hospital searching for the blue in the sky and sometimes never see it, today means there will be a lot more people leaving with a smile on their face in the knowledge that the NHS has been improved today, not seeking perfection, but made one hell of a sight better."

Tory Tim Boswell said waiting lists were now "at best static" and hospitals were "full at the height of summer".

And fellow Conservative Andrew Rowe said social services would inevitably "revert to a medical model deserted nearly 50 years ago".

GP incentives

Health Minister John Denham told the BBC part of the blueprint was aimed at encouraging GPs to continue working, rather than retiring early.

"We want to help relieve the burden on GPs, by, for example, the proposal for additional trained workers to deal with mental health problems which make up a quarter of all people GPs see."

He said the pension scheme and other incentives for GPs were also under review.

See also:

27 Jul 00 | NHS reform
27 Jul 00 | UK Politics
27 Jul 00 | NHS reform
19 Jul 00 | NHS reform
13 Jul 00 | Health
Internet links:


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