Heseltine cuts red tape in GP peace offering

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The Independent Online
Michael Heseltine, the deputy Prime Minister, today will announce a bonfire of red tape in an attempt to tackle overwork among teachers, policemen and family doctors.

The move follows complaints by GPs that the amount of form-filling they are expected to do is adding to the stress of their job. Many GPs say this paperwork has caused low morale.

The launch of the Government's plans to cut the amount of form-filling is part of a drive to win over the GPs, who have delayed the threat of action pending fresh talks with Stephen Dorrell, the Secretary of State for Health.

The campaign is the first major initiative by Mr Heseltine under his new role as first secretary with responsibility for efficiency in Whitehall.

It will also herald cuts in form filling by teachers, who have threatened to boycott exams, and police officers, who claim that bureaucracy is stopping them from patrolling the beat.

In a separate move to reassure doctors, Mr Dorrell at the weekend signalled the changes to the NHS, which have caused tensions within the health service, are at an end.

In a sharp change of rhetoric from Virginia Bottomley, his predecessor, Mr Dorrell said fundholding was not the only model for GPs. That was seen as an attempt to win back the confidence of the majority of GPs, who are not fundholders.

While he emphasised there would be no turning the clock back on the changes, Mr Dorrell told a Conservative summer school that the Tories had won the battle of ideas with Labour over the NHS and were moving onto a "new agenda" for health.

Health authorities must demonstrate their plans respond to public opinion, he said. "I look to health authorities to ensure that the patient's voice is heard alongside those of the accountants and the clinical experts," Mr Dorrell said.

The NHS should be prepared to invest to underwrite its commitment to quality.

Facing the threat of renewed industrial unrest by nurses over local pay determination, Mr Dorrell said the NHS had to protect its staff. "It isn't politicians who deliver health care, it is the bewildering variety of clinicians who put their services at the disposal of the NHS."