Tories, targets and transparency

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We're only one week into the new year and already the election season has begun in earnest, and it seems that health care will loom large as an issue. At The King's Fund we will be busy working with all the main parties, attempting to make sense of their proposals and to analyse the possible effects on the health and social care system.

As during previous elections, the Fund will continue to be a hub for health care debate, and on Friday David Cameron came to the Fund for a live webcast on the NHS. He answered questions from the public and professionals posted on the Conservative's website, following the launch of the Conservative's health manifesto earlier in the week.

In addition to the expected questions about 'will you get rid of bureaucracy?' and an almost mantra-like response that 'we will end process targets in the NHS', there was a notable focus on transparency.

When challenged about whether patients really do want choice in health care, Cameron could not have been clearer: there is no longer a place for 'doctor knows best', the world has moved on.

Despite some recent furore over data publication, Cameron was clear that we live in an age where information is much more freely available and that it's unacceptable to say that the public can't be trusted with it. He said the way to improve the health service is by trusting the public to use the information available to make choices in consultation with health care professionals.

Publishing everything, particularly outcome information, and trusting the public to understand the nuances of that data will be a challenge to an NHS that has arguably been slow to adapt to this information revolution.



Comment date
14 January 2010
David Cameron needs to answer a key question: what NHS standards will exist under the Conservatives?

In his NHS vision of data publication and enhanced provider competition, there is no conception that patients as consumers actually become weaker when minimum standards or targets are removed, against a backdrop of a funding squeeze.

Most commissioners struggle to get meaningful outcome data, so is Joe Public going to do any better?

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