Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair Is Shown Mountain to Climb on NHS; Budget 2002

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair Is Shown Mountain to Climb on NHS; Budget 2002

Article excerpt


THE DAUNTING scale of the problems facing the health service over the next 20 years - and the colossal sums needed to fix it - is being spelled out this morning in a report forming Gordon Brown's basis for the biggest investment ever seen in hospitals and doctors' surgeries.

The report, which the Chancellor commissioned from Derek Wanless, former chief executive of NatWest, is expected to pull no punches when it comes to describing the task facing Tony Blair over his promise to revolutionise the NHS.

A lack of adequate information technology of the type available in banks, high street shops and almost every other aspect of British life, was highlighted as an example of the woeful lack of basic equipment in the NHS.

But Mr Wanless has also given Labour a great gift - his strong support for the present system of funding, out of general taxation.

His report is likely to compare Britain's underfunded system with other countries, but come out in favour of the method set out by Nye Bevan in 1948.

He will close the door on other forms such as social insurance or a USstyle reliance on private medical insurance as penalising the poor and elderly.

His previous interim report, published last autumn, estimated that Britain had suffered a cumulative under-spend of up to [pound]267million during the Seventies and Eighties. But today's document is not expected to give one figure for the amount the Chancellor-should pump into the system. Instead, it will set out a number of scenarios giving varying sets of figures, based on estimates of how demand for care may rise, and how quickly thousands of extra doctors and nurses can be brought in.

Before it had even been published today, the report ran into trouble. The Tories accused Labour of deliberately withholding publication until now so that its uncomfortable message would be swamped by Budget coverage. …

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