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The myths and the facts about the NHS reforms

Tim Montgomerie

On ConservativeHome today the Health Secretary has set out why he thinks the changes he is making to the NHS will produce much greater efficiency and better patient care - largely through the new openness where doctors and patients will be able to choose freely between different providers. Mr Lansley's office has also supplied ConHome with some myth-busting facts about the NHS reforms. I post some below...

Myth: The NHS is being cut.

Fact: We are increasing the NHS budget above inflation year-after-year – something which Labour opposes But this does not mean that we can continue to put up with inefficient services, because of the rising demands on the NHS due to an ageing population and better technologies. That is why we are modernising the NHS – but any savings we make will be ploughed straight back into patient care.

Myth: The changes weren’t in either of your parties’ manifestos.

Fact: They were in both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat manifestos. The Conservative manifesto (p. 46) promised that GPs would be given control over the health service budget. The Conservative manifesto (p. 45) promised that every Trust would be made a Foundation Trust. Both the Conservative (p. 27) and Liberal Democrat (p. 42) manifestos promised that new social enterprises would be created to deliver NHS services. The Conservative (p. 45) and Liberal Democrat (p.42) manifestos promised that all types of providers – NHS, voluntary, or independent sector – would be free to deliver NHS services. An independent NHS Board was promised in the Conservative manifesto (p. 46). Scrapping central, politically-motivated targets was promised in both the Conservative (p.46) and Liberal Democrat (p. 42) manifestos. Cutting back on unnecessary administrative costs was included in both the Conservative (p. 46) and Liberal Democrat (pp. 40-41) manifestos.

Myth: The NHS doesn’t need any change.

Fact: Someone in this country is twice as likely to die from a heart attack as someone in France. Survival rates for some cancers are amongst the worst in the OECD. Premature mortality rates from respiratory disease are worse than the European average. The number of managers in the NHS doubled under Labour, and productivity went down year-on-year.

Myth: GP consortia will be forced to use the private sector.

Fact: It will be up to GP consortia to decide their own arrangements.

Myth: These changes will cost £3 billion.

Fact: The one-off cost of our changes will be £1.4 billion, of which £1 billion are the costs associated with reducing the size of the NHS bureaucracy – a reduction that is needed to honour both parties’ promises to reduce the cost of administration in the NHS. As a result, the changes will pay for themselves within two years, and go on to deliver £5 billion of savings over this Parliament.

Myth: GPs do not want to do the job you are asking them to do.

Fact: In just 12 weeks, GPs covering over half of the country have come together in groups to lead our modernisation. They have come forward voluntarily, more than two years before the formal handover of responsibility takes place in April 2013. This demonstrates the enthusiasm among frontline GPs to take advantage of the opportunities our modernisation plans offer.

Myth: These changes are a revolution.

Fact: Our proposals are an evolution of plans which governments of all parties have introduced over the past twenty years. Giving power to GPs has been around for the last two decades, with Labour setting up ‘practice-based commissioning’ when they realised that abolishing GP fundholding was a mistake. Foundation hospitals, and allowing patients to choose where to be treated on the NHS, have been ideas in the NHS for the best part of a decade.

Myth: This is a huge, top-down reorganisation.
Fact: We’re moving away from top-down organisation and control. We’re removing targets that tie up NHS staff in red tape and we’re getting politicians out of decision-making. We’re removing whole tiers of management that sit above doctors and nurses and instead giving them the power to decide what’s best for their patients. We’re giving patients more choice and control over their care, rather than managers telling them what they get. Our changes are about simplifying and modernising the NHS; not top-down change.


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