Headlines: June 26th, 2001

The NHS Confederation, representing health service management, believes that there may be some specific areas where the use of the private sector would add value to the NHS. The Confederation’s chief executive, Stephen Thornton, argues that the current debate about the role of the private sector in improving public services is missing the point because the critical issue is how to create the conditions that will enable either public or private management to flourish.The Confederation welcomes the government’s intention to create the right conditions, but has reservations about them being followed through. It believes that health service management can compete with the best, but the starting point should be a level playing field.

The prime requirement is freedom to manage, and this has been recognized by Health Minister Alan Milburn who has said the NHS cannot be run from Whitehall and that local health services must be given greater control. Other essential conditions are allowing management to take risks and replacing a profusion of targets with a limited number of key deliverables.