Last week, I had meetings with the Mid Essex Primary Care Trust and the Mid Essex Hospitals Trust to discuss the state of our local Health Service. In recent years, painful decisions have had to be taken to bring the NHS budget in Mid Essex into balance but this year both organisations should end of the year having eliminated their deficits. However, due to the present economic situation, they have now been told that it is likely that there will be no increase in the money available over the next four years, a financial outlook that has not been seen before in the NHS. As a result, savings of £75 - 95 million will have to be found. Achieving this will require a radical rethink of how health care is provided with a massive effort to bring down costs by studying best practice across the country and adopting it here.David Cameron has made clear that an incoming Conservative Government will protect the NHS with real terms increases in spending. However, the pressures created by an increasing and ageing population combined with often expensive advances in treatments mean that radical reform is necessary.
Under Labour, the NHS has turned into a giant machine controlled from above, responding to politicians, bureaucrats and managers. We want to give the NHS back to the doctors, nurses and professionals who work in it. Instead of setting top-down targets which distort clinical priorities, we will put healthcare professionals in charge of delivering patient care. We will also create a patient-led NHS where patients are able to choose where and when they receive treatment and we will give them information about how good different hospitals and doctors are.
By publishing information about the kind of results that healthcare providers are achieving, we will ensure that there is no hiding place for failure. If patients do not like what they are offered, they will be able to find something better. Making doctors and nurses accountable to patients, not to endless layers of bureaucracy, will also save money that can be put into frontline services instead.
Only the Conservatives have the reform programme that the NHS needs. By trusting professionals and providing the right incentives for them and by putting patient choice at the heart of the NHS, we will deliver the innovation and productivity gains needed so that the NHS will go on providing the standard of healthcare that patients expect.