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NHS must respond and adapt to the challenges ahead, PM says

Prime Minister David Cameron reiterated his personal commitment to the NHS reforms in a speech at Ealing Hospital recently.

Promising substantive changes to the reform proposals after his Government’s listening exercise, he stressed the need for GPs to have a wider role, for other clinicians to be involved in the commissioning process and for expanding patient choice.  

He also raised a question about whether private hospitals should have a training levy placed on them.  

NHS Confederation reaction  

Chief executive of the NHS Confederation Mike Farrar said: "There was no new detail about NHS reform in the Prime Minister's speech, but he was clear that if the service is to continue being free at the point of use, then it must respond and adapt to the challenges ahead. This will mean doing things differently. 

"We have been clear that we support the Government's objectives of empowering patients and giving doctors and nurses a greater role in the planning of services. But we urgently need greater clarity on a range of issues, such as how commissioning organisations will be governed and accountable to the public, and how competition and integration of services will be regulated if we are to have confidence that the reforms will achieve their aims. 

"The Government now needs to build on today's speech to provide clear and consistent messages about how these reforms will improve the system. It urgently needs to communicate why the health service will benefit from reform if it is to get staff, patients and the public on board. 

"Learning to do more with less is going to be tough and our health service faces its most challenging period ever in the years ahead. NHS staff have to rise to the challenge of implementing these reforms while achieving large-scale efficiency savings.  Policy makers must recognise the enormous scale of this task, and reflect it in the timetable for reform, allowing greater flexibility for achieving foundation status and commissioning consortia to get up and running.  

"This makes it essential that the outcome of the listening exercise provides reforms that are targeted only at those areas of the service that need change and help us deliver the productivity and efficiency challenge. 

"We are currently engaging with our members to get their feedback on the Government's proposals and will be putting their thoughts forward to the NHS Future Forum. 

"The Government must get these reforms right. If they don't, patients will be the losers."

Key points in the 16 May speech

Mr Cameron said the NHS: 

  • must tackle the waste and the bureaucracy by reducing the overlapping layers we have today
  • must put the patient centre stage, giving them choices and chances that they are currently denied
  • must promote prevention and a healthier nation, which must mean giving GPs, who are our first contact with the system and have a good understanding of their area’s health needs, a wider role
  • must tackle the longstanding and damaging divide between health and social care, including the bed blocking that still afflicts so many of our hospitals
  • must assist with the challenge to increase efficiency, raise productivity and keep costs down so we can go on meeting everyone’s needs.


Patrick Leahy
020 7074 3301


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