Tories plan NHS charm offensive

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Stephen Dorrell, the Secretary of State for Health, will this week draw a line under the Government's reforms in an attempt to win more support from health professionals.

An outline of Government thinking on primary care will promise no more initiatives without the backing of general practitioners, health visitors and nurses. Mr Dorrell will also distance himself from the upheavals brought about by his predecessor, Virginia Bottomley.

The abolition of the regional health authorities in April is seen by ministers as the final piece of controversial change in the NHS within this Parliament.

Further plans for innovation - such as the cottage hospital proposals highlighted by the Prime Minister in March - will proceed on the basis of voluntary pilot projects only. Under this plan, announced at the Conservative Central Council in Harrogate, GPs will be encouraged to turn their surgeries into "cottage hospitals" performing minor surgery.

This week's statement follows a lengthy consultation exercise conducted by the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Gerry Malone. This revealed many areas of disquiet among GPs.

In the run-up to the election Mr Dorrell hopes to present the Tories as the party of the status quo. Ministers, who recognise health as one of the Opposition's strongest issues, hope to paint Labour as the party that will impose unwanted change.