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Tory plans for independent NHS

18th October 2006

17032006_corridor.jpgNew legislation to make the NHS 'independent' is being called for by opposition leader David Cameron.

Addressing the King’s Fund, the Conservative leader outlined the NHS Independence Bill providing a ‘statutory framework’ freeing up politicians from any role in the day to day running of the health service.

He said political micromanagement had led to the NHS becoming a ‘political football’;  the bill would hand over more responsibility to the professions with the skills and knowledge to run it.

The bill would also establish an independent board to run the NHS and tariff-setting powers would be handed over to Monitor.

His comments come as the Conservative party published their interim policy document on health. In it they suggest allowing patients to choose not only their providers, but their commissioners as well.

The bill would incorporate three independent elements:

- A board responsible for allocation of resources, commissioning of services, and ensuring equality of access and excellence of care;

- A regulatory framework using a ‘quality inspectorate’ similar to the existing Healthcare Commission, and an ‘economic regulator’ like the existing Monitor to license providers, ensure availability of provision, set tariffs, promote competition, safeguard financial propriety and encourage efficiency and quality.

- A national patient body to intervene where services are failing, influence commissioners and NICE. Council overview and scrutiny committees will be given a beefed-up role in service planning.

Mr Cameron called for Labour to help create the detail of the new legislation which draws cross-party support and could be implemented in 2008, when the NHS celebrates the 60th anniversary of its inception.

The Conservative interim policy document, drawn up by former health secretary Stephen Dorrell, calls for competitive commissioning which would hand over some of the commissioning responsibility of PCTs to ‘alternative commissioners’ representing the interests of a geographical area or patients with a particular clinical condition. These alternative commissioners would include NHS managers, clinical networks, and representatives from local authorities and the private and voluntary sectors. This would allow patients to choose their own commissioner.

The document also suggests replacing targets with local standards, drawn up by clinicians and managers, while ministers would set nationwide health outcomes objectives.

A final version of the bill is set to be published in January, with a completed health policy ready in June.

 

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