The King's Fund expresses concern over Conservative health plans

The King's Fund says it is disappointed that the Conservative Party has retained proposals to hand over NHS money to patients who would have gone private anyway.

Responding to the Conservative Party's health manifesto published today, The King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson said:

'We are concerned that the Conservatives have kept their patient passport policy, albeit under a different guise. This proposal would mean the NHS subsidising large numbers of patients who currently pay for the entire cost of their private treatment. It represents a large dead weight cost and would not be a good use of public funds.

'Most commentators now agree that patients should be offered more choice, but I suspect voters will see this as undermining a basic principle of the NHS, which is about giving free care to all and not about providing a top up payment for those who can afford more expensive care.'

The King's Fund welcomed the Conservatives' plans to appoint an independent commission for public health and introduce measures to improve hospital cleanliness. It also applauded moves to give family doctors greater responsibility for commissioning care for their patients.

But the King's Fund did question the plan to scrap all targets.

'We cannot see how this will improve services for patients,' said Niall Dickson. 'The current government has imposed too many targets and not all have been very clever, however they can galvanise the service, act as important benchmarks and offer one way in which the taxpayer can hold the NHS to account. Targets have also played a significant part in helping to cut long waits.'

And there was also concern that abolishing strategic health authorities would create a dangerous vacuum at a time of major change.

Niall Dickson said: 'We feel strategic health authorities could have an important role over the next few years. The current government's changes, such as patient choice and 'payment by results' are already creating a less stable health economy and the Conservatives support that direction of policy. In this new and more volatile market we will need some organisation to oversee the system in each area, not least to ensure patients have access to a comprehensive range of services.'

Notes to editors: 

1. For further information or interviews, please contact The King's Fund media and public relations office on 020 7307 2585. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.

2. The King's Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. We carry out research, policy analysis and development activities, working on our own, in partnerships, and through grants. We are a major resource to people working in health, offering leadership and education courses; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.