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Independent NHS idea won't work, says Hewitt

Published on 15/06/07 at 03:28pm


Patricia Hewitt has dismissed the idea of making the NHS fully independent from politicians, first proposed by Gordon Brown a few months ago.

The soon-to-be Prime Minister had floated the idea late last year of, once and for all, freeing the health service of political interference by creating an independent NHS board.

But the health secretary has poo-pooed the idea in a high-profile speech at the London School of Economics, saying the centralised approach would threaten the modernisation of the service.

"The NHS is four times the size of the Cuban economy and more centralised, she told the LSE audience.

"That is part of its problem, and the problem can't be solved by proposing that a modern health service be run like a 1960s' nationalised industry."

Hewitt's intervention follows similar comments made by Tony Blair, who dismissed Mr Brown's idea of an independent NHS board, claiming it would hamper reform and stop difficult decisions being taken on the future of the health service.

She refuted the idea that Labour was turning the NHS into a "free market", but said that limited competitive pressure could create "startling results for patients".

"I can think of no greater sanction against poor services than allowing patients to vote with their feet," she added.

Hewitt did however declare her support for an NHS constitution, which could set out rules to counteract anti-social behaviour from some patients and the public, as well as outlining the personal responsibilities of patients and individuals in relation to their health.


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