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2000: Labour publishes plans to revolutionise NHS
The Labour Government has announced the most radical re-organisation of the NHS since it was founded in 1948.

Outlining the new 10-year plan to the House of Commons, Prime Minister Tony Blair said he wanted "to make the NHS once again the envy of the world".

"Our task is to provide both the money and the reform to make sure the health service and its founding principles live on and prosper into the 21st century," he explained.

Patient-centred service

Promising billions of pounds of extra investment, the 170-page blueprint contains wide-ranging changes to create a more patient-centred service.

Areas for improvement include:

  • Waiting times to be reduced from 18 to six months by 2004 and to three months by 2008
  • 7,000 extra beds over the next four years - the first increase for nearly 30 years
  • An extra 7,500 consultants, who will work exclusively for the NHS during their first seven years of practice
  • An extra 20,000 nurses
  • An extra 2,000 GPs
  • A "concordat" with the private sector to provide extra capacity
  • 570m more for cancer services by 2003/4
  • 230m more for heart disease treatments by 2003/4
  • A National School Fruit Scheme to provide all four to six-year-olds with a piece of fruit a day to reduce health risks in later life
  • A new National Clinical Assessment Authority to restore public confidence in doctors

Opposition leader William Hague has criticised the plan for setting targets so far into the future that Mr Blair's government cannot be held responsible for possible failures.

The British Medical Authority is concerned about changes to doctors' contracts, including restricting private practice.

Organisations for the elderly were unhappy that only nursing not personal care - washing and feeding - was to be free in the new system.

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Photograph of an NHS patient on a hospital trolley
Waiting times are to be reduced to three months by 2008

In Context
Funding for the 40bn worth of NHS improvements was central to Chancellor Gordon Brown's 2002 budget.

He announced the first increase in direct taxation - national insurance - since he became chancellor five years before, to fund the reforms.

Spending on the NHS was to increase by 7.4% a year from 6.7% of GDP in 1997 to 9.4% by 2007/8.

The European average for health spending was 8% of GDP in 2002.

A survey of the health service in July 2005 found patients still had many concerns about the levels of service provided in areas like dentistry, mental health, maternity and even making GP appointments.

However, the Healthcare Commission report praised advances made in tackling heart disease and cancer and cutting waiting lists.

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