The question is not about the government's aims for the NHS but about its methods for achieving them, says The King's Fund

Responding to Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson's speech to the Labour party conference earlier today, The King's Fund chief executive, Niall Dickson said:

'There is no doubt that the government's priorities of access, equality and hospital cleanliness are also the priorities of patients and their families.

'It is also encouraging that the government accepts the need to tackle the huge challenge of obesity if the health service is to remain affordable and sustainable. Allied to that is the need to drive up productivity – unless every pound of the record NHS budget is made to count, the long-term viability of the entire service will be threatened.

'Alan Johnson's comments about engaging staff and moving towards local solutions must also be welcomed.

'The question is not about the government's aims but about its methods for achieving them. The solution to all these problems lies at a local level using a range of incentives and levers, most of which are already in the system. If the government pursues this path it should achieve real progress. The danger is that if it resorts to central diktats, bombarding the service with one new idea after another, it creates a system that is always looking up for its next instruction rather than down into its own affairs. It is vital that ministers take this on board, however tempting central control may seem'

Notes to editors: 

  1. For further information or interviews, please contact the King’s Fund press office on 020 7307 2585, 020 7307 2632 or 020 7307 2581. 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 funding. We are a major resource to people working in health and social care, offering leadership development programmes; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.