Magazine article Public Finance

The NHS Needs to Pause for Effect

Magazine article Public Finance

The NHS Needs to Pause for Effect

Article excerpt

There are few subjects as emotive as the National Health Service. It is the 'third rail' of British politics. Not even Margaret Thatcher attempted any real reform of a system designed in the 1940s and based around the same state mega-bureaucracy that built D-Day landing craft.

But the task of reform is urgent Growing demand fed by chronic conditions, new expensive treatments and increased longevity means the N HS faces challenges that demand new ways of working.

There is no doubt that Andrew Lansleys Health and Social Care Bill will accomplish huge things for patients. No longer will decisions be made by distant, anonymous primary care trusts. General practitioners - often with a lifetime knowledge of patients - will be empowered to seek out and commission the best treatment.

Entire bureaucratic organisations will be consigned to the waste bin, freeing huge amounts of cash to be spent on care, not paperwork. The Health and Social Care Bill stands every chance of reinvigoratinga system that has not greatly changed in almost 70 years.

All of which makes it even more i important that the changes are not rushed. In a report published early in April, Policy Exchange recommended that the 2013 deadline for all GPs to form themselves into consortiums should be relaxed. We said this because we believe a longer timeframe for change to take effect will make the reforms deeper and better.

The research we did with GPs in Cumbria, where the new system has been trialled, shows that many like and prefer it. But others need to have hard evidence that the system will bring real benefits. Likewise, new and innovative providers from all sectors - public, private and voluntary - need more detail on how they will fit into the system. …

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