Dorrell freezes Bottomley's NHS reforms

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The Independent Online
THE NEW Secretary of State for Health, Stephen Dorrell, promised yesterday to call a halt to health reforms and praised the National Health Service as "a continuing British success story".

In language contrasting sharply with that of his predecessor, Virginia Bottomley, he spoke of "honouring and respecting" the commitment of the NHS's medical staff.

Speaking as the trade union Unison sent out ballot papers for what could be the last national strike in the NHS, Mr Dorrell promised a change of style in his department, but made no concession in the dispute.

Rows over the structure of the NHS were "yesterday's subject", he said, and "life has moved on". This week Mr Dorrell will launch a war on bureaucracy with an initiative to cut the number of forms filled out within the NHS by 15 million annually.

In his speech to the Conservative Political Centre Summer School in Cambridge, Mr Dorrell promised development of the family doctor service - the "jewel in the crown" of the NHS - and stressed that the Government's favoured GP fundholding scheme was "not the only model". He added there would be "no preconceptions, no closed minds, no rejections of ideas because they weren't invented here".

Mr Dorrell said: "It isn't the politicians who deliver health care - it is the bewildering variety of clinicians who put their services at the disposal of the NHS. Investment in those people's skills, as well as honouring and respecting their commitment to the service, is an essential element in our commitment to the development of a high-quality health service."

But there were no concessions in the dispute over pay bargaining. The Government has made clear its determination to phase out national bargaining in the NHS, beginning this year with a 1 per cent national pay offer, with up to 3 per cent available for negotiation locally.

Gerry Malone, Minister of State for Health, refused to back down, insisting: "National terms and conditions are old-fashioned and don't serve well either the people who work in the modern health service or the health service itself."

Hospital staff belonging to Unison are being asked to support action short of a strike, and a one-day national stoppage in mid-September.

Union leaders, who expect a clear "yes" vote, say emergency cover will be maintained. Failing movement on the part of the Department of Health and NHS management, Unison plans a week-long programme of activity in October.

Bob Abberley, the union's health secretary, said: "We are ready to talk if the employers are ready. We want to avoid action if we can."

Goodbye to all that, page 19

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