Headlines: February 11th, 2008

A new report is accusing the Government of being in denial about the progress on the ground of its National Health Service Reforms. The report, published today by the independent think-tank, Reform, says the commitment to NHS reform is right but the programme of change remains embryonic, and in some cases in full retreat.

The study, “NHS reform: national mantra, not local reality”, argues that reform is the only way to unlock the value of the NHS budget and says the solution is an economic constitution that defines duties to create value at all levels of the service. This, the report adds, should be the central conclusion of the current landmark NHS review.

The report, produced by Nick Bosanquet, Professor of Health Policy at Imperial College London, and others draws on recent academic studies to show NHS performance across the lifespan is well behind other countries, leaving a“cradle-to-grave gap”. It says new investment is needed to improve patient care in many areas, but funding from the taxpayer is, and should be, restricted in future with greater productivity being seen as the answer to a strategic challenge.

Today’s report argues that while the Government has said reform is all but in place this is a national mantra rather than local reality. In fact, it says, the internal market has become lopsided, favouring producers rather than patients. As a result patient choice and independent sector treatment of NHS patients are in retreat.

Its key findings show that last year seven international clinical benchmarking exercises revealed a cradle-to-grave performance gap compared to peer group countries. This year, it says, is a turning point, with two possible futures – “NHS opportunity” or “Managing NHS decline”.

Professor Bosanquet, said: “The Department of Health’s strategic challenge is to transform the quality of NHS care within a foreseeable future of tightly limited resources. The NHS does not need a ‘charter’ which amounts to a statement of good intentions. It needs an economic constitution which gives every level of the service the duty to achieve value for money.”