Headlines: April 19th, 2002

There’s been a widespread welcome among health groups for the further announcements of change in the NHS following the budget.Alan Milburn’s fleshing out of the long term reform required to run alongside its sustained increase in funds has been described as ‘setting the stage for an NHS that is less politicised and freed from excessive central control,’ according to the King’s Fund.

The BMA says it supports the creation of a Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection and hopes it will strike the right balance between accountability and hyper-regulation, tidying the current confusing ‘patchwork’ of regulatory and inspection bodies.

The NHS Confederation, voice of the managers of the hospitals and trusts organisations that make up the NHS welcomes the increase in positive incentives and freedoms – saying they take an important cultural step from pushing change through targets to pulling change through incentives.

The RCN has welcomed the idea of new contracts for nurses and other health care staff. The nurses’ body sees this as giving nurses more authority and more responsibility. It also welcomes plans to recruit more nurses, but points out new recruits will only be found and existing colleagues persuaded to stay if pay is addressed.

As well as the promise of more doctors, nurses and therapists, ‘Delivering the NHS Plan – next steps on investment; next steps on reform’ includes plans to achieve shorter waiting times, and create more beds.

A new and better NHS pay system is promised, making greater allowance for regional cost of living differences. It will be tied to new contracts for employees, involving fundamental changes in job design and work organisation. Local employers will be free to design new jobs which break down traditional occupational demarcations.

Primary care trusts (PCTs) will be free to purchase care from the most appropriate provider – be they public, private or voluntary.

The first NHS foundation hospitals will be identified later this year, with freedom and flexibility within the new NHS pay systems to reward staff appropriately, and with full control over all assets and retention of land sales.

The hospital payment system will switch to payment by results – so that the best hospitals will receive the most reward.

There is also a promise to slim down the Department of Health by the passing on, for instance, of negotiations over national employment contracts to NHS employers acting collectively.

Link: www.doh.gov.uk/deliveringthenhsplan/index.htm