Commenting on Secretary of State for Health Patricia Hewitt's speech to the IPPR today (19 September), The King's Fund director of policy Richard Lewis, said:
On private sector involvement:
'We see no reason why there should not be a diverse health care market, with a range of providers, so long as all those involved operate on a level playing field. After all, patients are concerned more with getting high quality care than they are with the kind of organisation that delivers it. Once patients are given the choice of provider it becomes very difficult to set an exact level for independent sector provision and, in any case, there is no obvious way to judge what the right level should be.
'However, a range of different providers will inevitably lead to a more fragmented service which raises a number of potential problems. For example, more thought is needed about how education and training for doctors and other NHS staff will be delivered. We also need more clarity about what rights patients will have to engage with independent sector providers – the government already has a clear aim to enable this with NHS providers by allowing patients to elect foundation trust governors.'
On service reconfiguration:
'There has long been an obsession with bricks and mortar but we welcome a move away from this. Hospitals are a means to patient care, not an end in themselves. More services could be provided in a community setting and hospitals themselves must continually evolve. However for proposed hospital reconfigurations it needs to be shown that services will be safe, efficient and of high quality.
'But for all this understandable interest in the structure of health services, the main aim of these modernising reforms should be to produce a marked improvement in the nation's health – we are yet to see any substantial evidence of this.'
Notes to editors:
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