David Cameron has laid out the Conservatives’ desire to become the “party of the NHS” in a speech in Manchester.
The Tory leader spoke at Trafford General hospital where, 60 years ago this year, Nye Bevan laid the founding stone for the post-war Labour government’s crowning achievement.
Mr Cameron attacked modern-day Labour for its management of the NHS, saying Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had “ripped out its heart and installed a malfunctioning computer instead”.
He attacked the prime minister for having a short-term strategy in NHS management, claiming Mr Brown was “worse than [Mr] Blair” when it came to “soundbites and tricksy politics”.
Attacking the government’s enthusiasm for targets as a means of securing improvements, he said: “The NHS is suffering from the shoddy jargon-ridden schemes served up on powerpoint and swallowed whole by the people who are supposed to be custodians of the health service and custodians of taxpayers’ money.”
Mr Cameron pledged a Conservative government would continue to increase public funding for the NHS “using the proceeds of growth”.
He claimed proposals for an NHS constitution were his party’s idea and said an emphasis on outcomes rather than targets would be prioritised.
“We’ll measure cancer survival rates, for instance – not the number of radiotherapy courses delivered per month in a particular oncology unit,” he explained.
“That means that health policy can become evidence-based rather than target-driven – delivering not only equity, but excellence and value for money too.”
Mr Cameron said his party had a “historic opportunity” to become the “champions” of the NHS.
“That’s quite an aspiration – but I believe it is our duty to live up to it. To be the party of the NHS is an honour that must be earned,” he concluded.
“I pledge today, here at the place where the NHS began, that I and my party will work tirelessly this year to earn that honour to deserve the trust of the patients and staff of the NHS and to be what I believe we should be: the party of the NHS.”