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Saturday 21st April 2018

Blair meets NHS leaders

17th April 2006

13042006_stormy_meeting.jpgThe press were invited to a meeting at Downing Street between Tony Blair, Patricia Hewitt and Chief Executives in the NHS.

This appeared to be an effort by Downing Street to show Mr Blair was in control of financial problems that trade unions and some independent experts fear could lead to hospital closures and job losses, said the Financial Times. Unions say that 7,000 jobs are already being cut. Hospitals have been delaying non-emergency treatment because of cash shortages.

The total deficit across the NHS is expected to have risen to £600m-£700m in the year to March, up from £219m in 2004-05. Thousands more jobs are likely to disappear in hospitals as trusts with big deficits try to slash costs by cutting use of agency workers and moving more work into the community.

Mr Blair admitted that some parts of the service faced big challenge, but he pledged to push on with his health reforms, predicting that these changes offered the 'best chance' of delivering a stronger, more effective service. He stressed that most trusts did not face financial problems and that just 7 per cent of trusts accounted for more than half the overall NHS deficit. Sir Ian Carruthers told the meeting that the aim of a recovery plan, agreed with the Department of Health, was to restore NHS finances to "net balance" by the end of 2006-07 and reduce the number of organisations in deficit.

Reform, a centre-right think-tank, also released a Report on Wednesday that suggested that the move away from hospital care would lead to a cut in staff numbers of about 10 per cent, equivalent to a further reduction of about 100,000 in the workforce of 1.3m. But it also said this would lead to a more efficient system and that a smaller NHS would have "higher professionalism, morale and job satisfaction". The Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said some of the ideas such as more flexibility made sense but she rejected the 100,000 job cut figure.

Andrew Lansley, the Shadow health secretary, said the government had lost control of finances. He accused ministers of "disastrous management of the NHS".

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the King's Fund said that 'the NHS is not in crisis' stressing that there have been real achievements over the last few years 'but it is in danger'. He added that the priority for the government must be to sort out the financial turmoil. Of the health authority restructuring he commented that this is the 'right policy at the wrong time', and that it had 'simply thrown the NHS into even greater turmoil."

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