The King's Fund response to the Conservative health policy paper

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Responding to the Conservative’s health policy paper published today, Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, said:

'We welcome today's health policy paper from the Conservatives – they are right that what matters to patients is whether their quality of life has improved following surgery or any other procedure rather than whether top-down targets have been met. To be fair to the NHS it has already recognised that it needs to move on from an exclusive focus on centrally imposed targets towards measuring health outcomes. This should help patients make informed choices and to drive up standards.

'But the Conservative's plan to abolish central targets needs to be considered carefully. While central targets have certainly brought problems – not least the sheer number of them and some unintended consequences – they have been a big factor in driving down unacceptable waiting lists. Before we drop central targets altogether we must be sure that there are appropriate safeguards to ensure standards and aspirations are in place.

'Those responsible for the nation's health need to maintain all the levers for bringing about change: perhaps a smaller number of very meaningful targets; greater accountability at local and national level; strengthened professional practice for clinicians; financial incentives that support good health outcomes, not just activity; patient choice and competition and effective regulation.'

Notes to editors

  1. For further information or interviews please contact The King’s Fund media and public relations 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.