The King's Fund statement on Conservative vision for the future of the health service

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The King's Fund today welcomed the final report from the Conservatives' Public Service Improvement Group on the future of the NHS.

The King's Fund Chief Executive Niall Dickson said:

'The Conservatives have outlined a progressive and promising list of proposals in today's report and there will be much that will encourage patients, the public and health care professionals. Chief among these are the commitment to giving stronger political leadership and focus to public health, a vow to avoid a repeat of the damaging reorganisations that the NHS has suffered from in recent years, and a renewed focus on developing better services for the millions of people in the United Kingdom with long-term, chronic conditions.

'We also welcome the Conservatives' commitment to an NHS free at the point of use and funded through general taxation, and support their plans to re-engage clinicians in the NHS reform agenda. Health care professionals are increasingly isolated from the path of NHS reform and it is crucial to win back their support if the reforms are not to falter.

'But what is less clear from today’s report is how a Conservative administration would tackle some of the more contentious decisions to be made on issues such as rationing, the reconfiguration of hospital services, and the implications of bringing in new providers and further developing the market in health care. Changing the way services are delivered will require political courage and there will be hard decisions to make.'

Niall Dickson added: 'More than ever there is a convergence between the health policies of the government and the opposition. These proposals very much build on the existing reform agenda, which is designed to devolve power from the centre and provide patients with much greater choice and control over their care and treatments.

'The last remaining battleground will be on delivery – ensuring the NHS becomes genuinely responsive and effective and has the backing of health professionals. Patients, not providers, must take precedence in the new NHS and striking the right balance will be a key challenge.

'However, no-one should underestimate the task ahead – matching political rhetoric with real and lasting change on the frontline for the benefit of patients and staff has been a problem for many administrations. The difficulty lies in implementing these policies, as our health service – like every other in the developed world – finds itself under pressure as a result of changing demography and new technology, combined with rising expectations and demand.

'The key is to ensure there are the right incentives in the system. We need to give clinicians greater control over health budgets and put in place financial incentives to change the way services are delivered, making them more responsive and offering the appropriate care at the right time and in the right setting.'

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; conferences, seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.