NHS must change, says Blair5th December 2006
Tony Blair has remained defiant in the face of criticism over the programme of change in the NHS.
While many have demonstrated against NHS cuts and service changes, Mr Blair said the central purpose of the reforms was better care for patients.
A number of specialist reports support reconfiguring services into a smaller number of regional specialist centres with a second level of general care available more locally.
Mr Blair called on managers to promote changes to both clinicians and patients in his speech to the NHS Confederation.
He underlined that reforms would ensure patients had easy and quick access to specialist care when they needed it, but would also treat people closer to home when possible. And he told the confederation that he genuinely believed the NHS could be bettered with more lives saved and a better quality of life for many others.
His comments come as government advisers, Sir George Alberti and Professor Roger Boyle, published their reports, advising on the reconfiguration of services.
Both argue in favour of patients travelling to very specialist care at larger regional hospitals, while being treated closer to home through local hospitals, minor injury units and other community services like specialist GPs.
This new structure would enable everyone to access the very latest technologies and techniques which could save many lives, they said. There would also be more of an emphasis on providing care at home and in community settings.
The reforms have also been supported by new research from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) which has found specialist units were better for high-risk patients.
If heart attack care was reconfigured to ensure universal access to emergency angioplasty, around 500 extra lives could be saved every year, it said. But figures show less then three per cent of the country’s heart attack patients were treated in a specialist unit last year.
The Royal College of Surgeons and British Orthopaedic Society have also added to the debate, saying universal access to specialist trauma centres could save around 770 lives a year.
But other experts argue the additional time taken to get to specialist centres would cost lives in an emergency.
Ministers have reputedly accepted privately that the government has failed to win public backing for the NHS reforms, despite the government’s view that the current NHS is unsustainable.
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