Johnson unveils NHS strategy

Doctors and nurses will be given greater decision-making powers
Doctors and nurses will be given greater decision-making powers

Health secretary Alan Johnson has revealed the government's plans for the next ten years of the NHS.

Quality, patient choice and innovation are at the heart of the government's vision for its next decade, which comes following a nine-month review of the health service.

The review, led by health minister and surgeon Lord Ara Darzi, asked thousands of patients and healthcare workers what they wanted from the NHS and what improvements they would like to see.

Mr Johnson told MPs that the Next Stage Review would deliver "the highest quality of care for all".

He also announced the main parts of the NHS Constitution.

Key proposals include increasing patients' rights and choice; improving quality; and ending the nation's postcode lottery relating to drugs provision.

The health secretary announced that patients will be given more rights and control over their care and that the forthcoming NHS constitution will guarantee patient access to drugs approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice).

He also announced that changes would be implemented to the way Nice functions so that best practice readily flows to the front line.

Every patient with a long-term condition will be offered a personalised care plan so that services are organised around the needs of individuals.

Referring to controversial plans to increase access to GPs, Mr Johnson said a funding system would be developed to give rewards to family doctors who provide better access and high quality care.

Plans were also outlined that will ensure frontline staff will have a greater say in the decision-making process.

"High quality care is in our reach, the report charts a route to its achievement," Mr Johnson said.

In response to his announcement, shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said the NHS must be set "free from distorting top-down processed targets" and warned that the constitution "needs to be more than a patient's charter".

The proposals under the Next Stage review have been welcomed by various charities and health groups.

Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said they could give patients with dementia greater access to treatments.

"Speeding up evaluations of NHS treatments and giving people the universal right to approved treatments can only be positive," he added.

"Changes must also ensure that that the wider benefits of treatments to society, particularly carers, are considered."

NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon commented: "The NHS can no longer afford to treat GPs, community nurses, primary care trust managers and others working in primary care as second class citizens.

"There is a top-down stranglehold that prevents the innovation Lord Darzi says is vital. That must be loosened in favour of genuinely local decision making, with patients and professionals working together to provide the efficient and compassionate health service we all want."


Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.