Hague attacks 'stark admission of failure by PM'

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Unveiling the Government's sweeping reforms of the National Health Service, with thousands of extra nurses and doctors, Tony Blair said the task was not just "to tackle years of under-funding but years of low morale too.

Unveiling the Government's sweeping reforms of the National Health Service, with thousands of extra nurses and doctors, Tony Blair said the task was not just "to tackle years of under-funding but years of low morale too.

"The challenge is to make the NHS once again the healthcare system the world mostenvies," he said.

In a Commons statement, the Prime Minister promised more hospital beds, modernised GP facilities and 100 new hospitals over 10 years. He announced radical changes - the "most significant" since the NHS was established in 1948 - to the roles of GPs, nurses and consultants.

"We will never permit people to be forced out of the NHS for non-urgent care. That would destroy the NHS. Where the private sector is used, it will be fully within the NHS service - free at the point of use to the patient," he said.

But William Hague, the Tory leader, said Mr Blair's failure to mention Labour's waiting list initiative in his statement was a "stark admission of your total failure on health for the last three years". He warned Labour MPs who had just loudly cheered their leader that there would be a "vast gulf" between the new plan and what actually happened.

He went on to list what he said were examples of the Government's "mismanagement and failure", such as consultant waiting lists up by 154,000 since the election. "As your own adviser has summed it up so well, TB has not delivered. He said he would improve the NHS but instead things have got worse.

"Patient choice, trusting the NHS professionals, partnership with the private sector, getting rid of political interference - this is what the reality of reforming the NHS has to be about as well as the rhetoric.

"Instead we've seen today the final admission by you that you've broken every single promise you've made on health in the last three years.

"Given that absolute failure... you should be assured that the British people will judge you not on what you promise your plan will do but on what it is actually likely to deliver."

Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: "We want this national plan to succeed, we really do, it's in all our interest. If these promises are delivered then there will be better to come for the health service and I share the Prime Minister's hope that better is to come and the whole nation will want that betterment to bedelivered."

David Hinchliffe, the Labour MP for Wakefield and chairman of the Health Select Committee, said: "On these benches there will be some unease over the proposed relationship with a private healthcare sector that has consistently undermined the basic principles of the NHS since 1948."

Dennis Skinner, the Labour MP for Bolsover, said: "By any stretch of imagination this is a very big day for the NHS but more important for all those people who have had to use it over the years.

"[For] the people that leave that hospital searching for the blue in the sky and sometimes never see it, today means there will be a lot more people leaving with a smile on their face in the knowledge that the NHS has been improved today, not seeking perfection, but made one hell of a sight better."

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