Blair promises 20,000 more nurses for NHS

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Tony Blair has promised to bring in over 20,000 extra nurses, 7,500 more consultants and a further 2,000 GPs in a radical shakeup of the NHS.

Tony Blair has promised to bring in over 20,000 extra nurses, 7,500 more consultants and a further 2,000 GPs in a radical shakeup of the NHS.

The massive boost in healthcare workers forms the cornerstone for the government's national plan for reform of the health service, the Prime Minister vowed.

An extra 7,000 NHS beds - including 5,000 intermediate care places to look after elderly people and stop so-called "bed-blocking" - will also be funded, according to the plan.

As part of the shake-up, unveiled by Mr Blair in the House of Commons, ministers aim to cut the maximum waiting time for an operation from 18 months to six months by 2005.

By 2008, no patient will wait more than three months for treatment on the NHS, according to the plan.

And from 2002, any patient whose operation is cancelled for non-medical reasons will have their surgery within 28 days - even if it means the NHS paying for them to go to a private hospital, the Government promised.

The blueprint - entitled 'The NHS Plan: A Plan for Investment. A Plan for Reform' - is being billed as the most radical reform of the health service since it was founded in 1948.

It includes proposals for 100 new hospital schemes over the next decade, an overhaul of consultants' contracts and the creation of new "senior sister" posts for nurses - a modern-day matron.

As part of modernisation of primary care services, 500 one-stop centres will be established, combining GPs, dentists, opticians and other health and social care professionals under one roof.

By 2002, all patients will be able to see a primary care professional within 24 hours and a GP within two days, under the plan.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn said: "This is the most fundamental and far-reaching reform programme.

"For the first time, the Government has faced up to the breadth and depth of problems in the NHS and has addressed them all in turn.

"From the state of wards to the doctor's contract, not one issue has been ducked.

"By being honest in our analysis of the problems we have been able to produce the most radical of reforms."

Sharon Holder, national officer of the GMB union said: "This represents a real improvement in the delivery of care to patients and is what those who work and rely upon the NHS have been crying out for.

"However, as many non-clinical services are no longer provided directly by the NHS there must be real concerns about how the Government can guarantee delivery to patients in these areas."

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