Labour Conference: Dobson gets back on-message

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The Independent Online
Fine words about health workers had to be backed up by more spending, Frank Dobson, the Secretary of State for Health, was told yesterday by Rodney Bickerstaffe, leader of Unison, the main NHS union.

Mr Bickerstaffe told the Labour conference that "it would be a shame if this very winter we face again bed closures, ward closures, hospital closures - and those things are on the cards if more resources are not found in some way".

Mr Dobson denied being "sat on" by the leadership after he dropped an explicit threat to sack people from health boards who had private health insurance. There has been continuing speculation that Mr Dobson could be dropped by Tony Blair in his next reshuffle for going "off message" in the past.

Briefing about the speech is believed to have the leadership, and remarks which were in the text at 5pm on Monday were dropped.

He was expected to say: "People who don't use the health service won't be running it from now on." That was replaced by a more general commitment. "How can people who don't use local hospitals know enough about them to run them?"