Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley

Andrew Lansley, the new  Secretary of State for Health, has set out the Government’s ambitious plans to reform the NHS during this Parliament and for the long-term.

The White Paper ‘Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS’  details how power will be devolved from Whitehall to patients and professionals.

All hospitals are to become a Foundation Trust or part of one, giving them far greater freedoms from Whitehall and allowing them to earn more money from private patients. Management costs are to be cut in half but the Government has already admitted that the NHS would be forced to make staff redundant. It is estimated that around 25,000 jobs could be lost.

Professionals will be free to focus on improving health outcomes so that these are amongst the best in the world. Improving the quality of care will become the main purpose of the NHS.

Patients will get more choice and control, backed by an information revolution, so that services are more responsive to patients and designed around them, rather than patients having to fit around services. The principle will be “no decisions about me without me”.

Under the new plans, patients will be able to choose which GP practice they register with, regardless of where they live, and choose between consultant-led teams. More comprehensive and transparent information, such as patients’ own ratings, will help them make these choices together with healthcare professionals.

Groups of GPs will be given freedom and responsibility for commissioning care for their local communities. Providers of services will have new freedoms and they will be more accountable. There will be greater competition in the NHS and greater cooperation. Services will be more joined up, supported by a new role for Local Authorities to support integration across health and social care.

As a result of the changes, the NHS will be streamlined with fewer layers of bureaucracy. Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts will be phased out. Management costs will be reduced so that as much resource as possible supports frontline services. The reforms build on changes started under the previous Government.

Quoted on the COI website, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said:

“People voted for change and the Coalition Agreement set out a bold and exciting vision for the future of the NHS – a vision based on the principles of freedom, fairness and responsibility.

“The NHS is our priority. That is why the Coalition Government has committed to increases in NHS resources in real terms each year of this Parliament. The sick must not pay for the debt crisis left by the previous administration. But the NHS is a priority for reform too. Investment has not been matched by reform. So we will reform the NHS to use those resources far more effectively for the benefit of patients.

“The Government’s ambition is for health outcomes – and quality services – that are among the best in the world. We have in our sights a unique combination of equity and excellence.

“With patients empowered to share in decisions about their care, with professionals free to tailor services around their patients and with a relentless focus on continuously improving results, I am confident that together we can deliver the efficiency and the improvement in quality that is required to make the NHS a truly world class service.”

The White Paper is the start of an extensive consultation that will take place over the coming weeks. The Department of Health will shortly be publishing a number of consultation documents to seek views on more detailed proposals.