Govt promises to work with doctors on NHS reform

Johnson launches NHS review
Johnson launches NHS review

The new health secretary Alan Johnson has admitted the government failed to carry NHS professionals on past reforms.

In his first address to the Commons this afternoon, Mr Johnson said the government had "not managed to keep the profession on board" during its succession of reforms.

Mr Johnson said the government had learnt professionals know the NHS best and reforms cannot be achieved "while going against the grain".

He admitted the Department of Health had pursued an "emergency approach" to reform, pursuing a large number of initiatives within a short period of time.

However, Mr Johnson argued this had been necessary to reverse the damage done to the health service by the previous Tory government.

He pledged to work for a "closer, more robust social partnership" between patients and professionals, based on "trust and respect".

The health secretary was eager to move the debate forward, launching what he described as a "once in a generation" NHS review.

Mr Johnson told MPs: "At the end of this review we will consider the case for a new NHS constitution, with respect for the needs of patients and for the judgment of professionals at its heart, ensuring that power is devolved to those who know the service best."

"If the morale and goodwill of the profession dissipates, then our capacity for bringing about improvement for patients diminishes," he said.

The review, to be spearheaded by Professor Darzi, who was brought into the government last week by Gordon Brown, will focus on improving patient care amid an increasingly demanding patient body.

It will examine how services can be better coordinated to treat chronic conditions, how patients can better access flexible services and how the NHS can develop a patient-focused agenda for the next decade.

"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure that a properly resourced NHS is clinically led, patient-centred and locally accountable," said Mr Johnson.

The Conservatives attacked news of the NHS review and asked where Mr Brown and Mr Johnson's real policies were.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: "Is that it?

"Ten years of government, vast sums of taxpayers' money wasted, and we get yet another review of the NHS from yet another health secretary with no answers."

The Liberal Democrats asked why the review does not mention the inequalities in the health service.

Their health spokesman Norman Lamb said the review would not address the central failings in the NHS and was "silent on the damaging health inequalities that have widened under Labour."

He added: "Strategic direction is sorely missing in an NHS which has seen ten years of endless and often contradictory reform."

The NHS Confederation cautiously welcomed the review, but only on the condition that it marked a "genuine exercise in listening and understanding" about the future of the health service.

Mr Johnson today also announced plans to tackle hospital infections, releasing a further £50 million in funding.

This will be used to double the number of infection improvement teams, which go into the worst performing hospitals and help them meet targets for MRSA and C. Difficile.

NHS chief nursing officer Christine Beasley said: "I know from my visits to the NHS that some frontline clinicians have trouble accessing modern equipment.

"This announcement will help frontline NHS staff make a real difference to infection rates by giving them the power to make the changes they know will help patients."

The new prime minister is reportedly concerned that fears over hospital cleanliness are distorting the public's perception of the NHS.


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