A 'huge effort' is required to keep NHS fully funded by the taxpayer, says Jeremy Hunt

The health minister is setting out a '25-year version' for the service

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It will take a “huge effort” to maintain the NHS as a fully taxpayer funded service, Jeremy Hunt has said, days after a fellow health minister said the NHS funding system should be “questioned” if economic growth does not keep up with patient demand.

Mr Hunt’s comments to The Independent came as he set out a “25-year vision” for the NHS, which called for a “fundamental shift” away from a target-driven system towards “patient power”.

The Health Secretary said that a target focus had “dehumanised” the NHS, and called for more power to be put in patients’ hands, with greater access to health records and self-monitoring via health apps.

However, asked whether he was confident the NHS could continue for 25 years as a solely taxpayer funded service, Mr Hunt said:  “I am confident but I don’t have a crystal ball. If I look at the challenges we face in delivering the Forward View [NHS England’s plan to reform services up to 2020] I think that our model will work but it’s going to need a huge effort from NHS organisations and NHS leaders to deliver that.”

 

Earlier this week, health minister David Prior said in the House of Lords that an independent inquiry into future NHS funding may be needed.

Mr Prior, the former chair of the Care Quality Commission who was made a life peer and appointed to the Department of Health after May’s election, said that while he was “personally convinced” a taxpayer funded system was “the right one”, but added: “if demand for healthcare outstrips growth in the economy for a prolonged period, of course that premise has to be questioned.”

Speaking at the King’s Fund think-tank yesterday, Mr Hunt announced a range of measures to improve patient safety and patient control over their own healthcare. In a wide-ranging speech, he announced that five NHS trusts would receive support from the US hospital corporation Virginia Mason, whose Seattle hospital has been held up by Mr Hunt as an exemplar of patient safety.

Meanwhile, internet entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox will be asked to report on ways to increase uptake of new digital health devices among patients who could benefit. Mr Hunt said that patients should be able to monitor their own heart rates and blood pressure, and share information with their doctor in what he called “power-sharing” arrangements.

“Get this right and it’s no exaggeration to say the impact will be as profound for humanity in the next decade as the internet has been in the last. I want the NHS to get there first,” he said.

Mr Hunt also set an ultimatum for doctors’ union the British Medical Association, with whom he has clashed this week over weekend working for consultants. The Health Secretary imposed a September deadline on negotiations, warning that the Government could impose a contract unilaterally if necessary.

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