Labour Conference: Dobson promises pounds 320m in 'relentless war on waiting'

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The Independent Online
FRANK DOBSON, the Health Secretary, stepped up his campaign to cut hospital waiting lists yesterday when he announced a further pounds 320m for the NHS.

Mr Dobson vowed "the supertanker" had turned as he told the conference that lists, which had been cut by 20,000 in July, had been reduced by a further 20,000 last month.

The cash injection, taken from the NHS modernisation fund, would continue next year in the Government's "relentless war on waiting", he said.

In his speech, he also announced a national inquiry into bed provision to identify how to make the best use of existing facilities and ensure speedier hospital treatment for the needy.

To improve standards a new award scheme would be introduced, he added. Over 100 "beacon services" in hospitals and doctors' surgeries would be identified in a pounds 10m programme to spread best practice. Annual awards, called Aneurin Bevan Awards or "Nyes, for short", after the founder of the NHS, would be made to the best "beacon service" in each health region.

"I want Nyes to have the same prestige in the health service that the Oscars have in the film industry," he said.

"I am considering about introducing a wooden spoon award for the less successful.

"We haven't decided on the final name. But the working title is the Virginia Bottomley Medal - a permanent reminder of the Tory record on the NHS."

The Tory health spokesman Alan Duncan said the awards were a "cynical ploy", aimed to introduce party politics in the NHS.

To cheers, Mr Dobson repeated the Government's pledge there would be no new NHS charges in the lifetime of this Parliament.

Outlining the aims of the inquiry, Mr Dobson told delegates that waiting lists would not come down without having the right number of beds in the right place.

"It will look at how many beds we really need, what sort of beds they should be and how to make the best use of every single one of them ... we also need the right staff with the right skills and we've got to look after them better.

"We're going to make sure that louts who assault nurses, doctors and ambulance staff get caught and punished," he said.

With regard to nurses' pay, the Health Secretary said staging of pay awards would be avoided in future.