Bottomley's health care revolution undermined

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The Independent Online
THE CHIEF executive of the National Health Service, Alan Langlands, urged caution yesterday after Virginia Bottomley, who appointed him, had predicted hospital bed cuts of 40 per cent by 2002, writes Celia Hall.

He was speaking at the annual conference of the health service managers in Brighton, where the Secretary of State for Health had unveiled her vision of the future NHS on Wednesday.

She had promoted a shift from hospital care to community services based on GPs and district nurses fuelled by the advances in medical technology.

But the man behind the controversial forecast admitted last night that the figure was artificially high. Mrs Bottomley used the predictions - equivalent to the loss of 50,000 beds - to signal a huge hospital closure programme. Dr Morton Warner, author of a report testing the impact of the cuts on health care, disclosed he had deliberately inflated the figures, and that 25 per cent was more realistic.

John Chawner, chairman of the BMA consultants' committee, said Mrs Bottomley had been 'extremely unwise' to make such predictions. 'There is no evidence to support the wholesale reduction of beds. It alarms people unnecessarily,' he said.

Mr Langlands told the National Association of Health Authorities and Trusts: 'I think we have to be careful with the argument about the transfer of work from secondary to primary care. This is not a formula for dumping work that used to be carried out in hospital on to ill-prepared general practitioners. That won't work.'