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Saturday, 17 February, 2001, 16:43 GMT
Conservative health policies

Find out more about Conservative Party health policies.


WAITING LISTS

The Conservatives will introduce a "Patients' Guarantee", giving a maximum waiting time based on medical need, starting in defined clinical areas.

The consultant will determine that time, taking into account the individual patient's circumstances, not what the Tories call an arbitrary "average".

The number of patients treated will no longer be the target. Instead targets based on clinical outcomes will be set, after consultation with the medical Royal Colleges.

Cancer and cardiac care will be covered by guarantees in the first term of office, with other conditions covered later.

Health authorities will have to guarantee the waiting time given to the patient, by treating the patient itself within that time, arranging for the patient to be treated in another health authority or in the independent sector.


HEALTH INEQUALITIES

The Tories will establish an "Exceptional Medicines Fund" (EMF). This, they say, will remove the affordability criteria that the National Institute for Clinical Excellence has to take into account.

The EMF would be a central pot of money, determined by the Health Secretary, to pay for new or expensive treatments that had been proven to be effective.

Screening would be extended, for example the testing of Human Papillomavirus for cervical cancer and Troponin-I, which can tell whether chest pain is caused by coronary problems.

Recombinant Factor 8 will be made available to all haemophiliacs in England. It is already available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


HOW THE NHS WORKS

The Conservatives have pledged to meet the Labour government's spending plans, as well as promoting growth in the private sector.

They have also said they will remove the "red tape and bureaucracy" out of the NHS.

The Conservatives promise no more changes in primary care, though primary care trusts will be given a wider commissioning role.

Health authorities will eventually be phased out.

GPs will be encouraged to specialise more so that patients could receive more care in primary care and not have to go to hospital.

Stand alone surgical units will be set up to carry out surgery for routine conditions.

The Tories aim to take the Health Secretary out of the "day-to-day" management of the NHS and make the role a more strategic one.

An independent Appointments Body would be set up to hire people for NHS posts.

Community Health Councils would be "retained and strengthened".

The number of beds for acute psychiatric patients would be increased, and mixed-sex wards would close.


STAFFING

GPs would be encouraged to specialise more under the Conservatives, with more treatments provided in primary care rather than hospitals.

Practice nurses would also be encouraged to take on more disease management roles.

The Conservatives have pledged to increase the supply of doctors and nurses.

Retired GPs would be encouraged to return to the NHS.

"Matron's Values" would be introduced, where cleaning and feeding patients come under the ward sister's control. Labour have introduced "Modern Matrons", who also have greater control over what happens in their wards.

Nursing rotas could be reorganised, so more medically trained nurses were available in winter, with surgically trained nurses available in summer, when there is most surgical activity.

There would be no restrictions on consultants practising outside the NHS.

Doctors training would be extended to include six months each in A&E and general practice.

They currently spend six months on a surgical ward, and six months on a medical ward.

Bio-medical scientists would be included in the NHS Pay Review Body.

Pharmacists' roles would be enhanced.


PRIVATE HEALTHCARE

One of the main planks of the Conservatives' policy is an extension of the use of private health insurance.

The party proposes to end the "tax penalty" on those taking out private insurance.

Dr Liam Fox, the party's health spokesman, has said he favours encouraging more companies to provide private health insurance for their staff, by removing taxes on both employers and employees, which the Conservatives say currently act as a disincentive.

They have also suggested creating an "umbrella scheme", like a company scheme, which the self-employed can join.

The Conservatives believe encouraging growth in the independent sector will raise health care standards for everyone.


STANDARDS

The Conservatives say top quality care has to be available from all sources, whether NHS or private.

To that end, they propose a single regulatory body which would be responsible for inspection and standards.

There would also be a standardised patient consent form, across the NHS.


SOCIAL CARE

The Conservatives say they will tackle the problem of "bed-blocking", which occurs when mainly elderly patients are forced to remain in hospital even though they no longer need treatment, because the care package in the community is not ready.

The party says it will reverse the decline in care home bed numbers.

And it proposes that people in England who save 25,000 to 30,000 in special accounts to fund any future care so that other assets, such as a home, would not have to be used to pay bills.

A Mental Health Act and an Adoption Act will be brought before Parliament.

Prison healthcare will become the responsibility of the NHS.

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