Tory Conference: Tories shift to right on health

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The Independent Online
ON THE eve of her speech to the Conservative Party conference, Ann Widdecombe has come out against an inflation-busting pay rise for the nurses.

A shift to the right in Tory health policy in favour of the private sector will be signalled today by the Shadow Health Secretary on the opening day of the Bourenmouth conference.

Ms Widdecombe is planning to back constituency party calls for tax breaks to be restored for private health insurance for the elderly.

She also takes a tough line on nurses' pay. She told the New Statesman: "I don't think the government can commit itself to a huge pay rise in any part of the public sector so we won't be backing the nurses if and when they put in a large claim."

The nurses' staff side last week put in a claim for around 9 per cent, and the Royal College of Nursing will be calling for a substantial pay rise in its submission to its pay review body in mid-October. The Government is poised to warn the NHS pay review bodies that their recommendations must be kept closer to the Chancellor's 2.5 per cent inflation target.

The Shadow Health Secretary will also call for a public debate over rationing of services on the NHS, which is delivering a patchy service at the margins, such as operations for varicose veins and in vitro fertilisation.

She believes more should be done to encourage people to take out private health insurance, while keeping the NHSfree at the point of delivery. Ms Widdecombe is holding the line against hawks in the Shadow Cabinet who want to drop John Major's pledge to keep raising spending in real terms.