We cannot afford not to reform NHS, says David Cameron

The Government cannot afford to delay essential reform of Britain's public services, David Cameron warned today.

As ministers prepared to publish legislation to radically overhaul the NHS, the Prime Minister said that failure to modernise was draining resources away from the public sector.



In a keynote speech at the Royal Society of Arts in London, he dismissed suggestions that services could carry on as they were as "a complete fiction".



The Government's plans for the NHS were denounced today by six health service unions - including the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing - as "potentially disastrous".



But Mr Cameron insisted that change was essential.



"Every year without modernisation the costs of our public services escalate. Demand rises, the chains of commands can grow, costs may go up, inefficiencies become more entrenched.



"Pretending that there is some 'easy option' of sticking with the status quo and hoping that a little bit of extra money will smooth over the challenges is a complete fiction.



"We need modernisation, on both sides of the equation. Modernisation to do something about the demand for healthcare, which is about public health. And modernisation to make the supply of healthcare more efficient, which is about opening up the system, being competitive and cutting out waste and bureaucracy.



"Put another way: it's not that we can't afford to modernise; it's that we can't afford not to modernise."









With the Government also set to publish details of its school reforms next week, Mr Cameron cited the experience of Tony Blair, who found that delaying public service reform simply resulted in "institutional inertia" against change.



He acknowledged that in the past the Conservatives had not always shown sufficient respect for those who worked in public services, but insisted he would "revere, cherish and reward" an ethos of public service.



"I believe previous Conservative governments had some really good ideas about introducing choice and competition to health and education - so people were in the driving seat. But there was insufficient respect for the ethos of public services - and public service," he said.



"The impression was given that there was a clear dividing line running through our economy, with the wealth creators of the private sector on one side paying for the wealth consumers of the public sector on the other.



"This analysis was - and still is - much too simplistic. Public sector employees don't just provide a great public service - they contribute directly to wealth creation."



He denied he was planning "a kind of public service version of a laissez-faire economic policy" with the Government's reforms for schools and hospitals, "where winners are created at the expense of those who get left behind".



"The state has a hugely important responsibility to ensure clear, basic standards are met, the rights of users are maintained and independent inspection is carried out in our public services and we are in no way abrogating that," he said.



The Prime Minister also rejected suggestions that the Government was trying to do "too much at once" in pushing through change.



"Every year we delay, every year without improving our schools is another year of children let down, another year our health outcomes lag behind the rest of Europe, another year that trust and confidence in law and order erodes," he said.



"These reforms aren't about theory or ideology - they are about people's lives. Your lives, the lives of the people you and I care most about - our children, our families and our friends.



"So I have to say to people: if not now, then when? We should not put this off any longer."







Mr Cameron also explained comments in which he appeared to describe the NHS as a second-rate National Health Service as a slip of the tongue.



His slip-up came during a radio interview this morning on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.



Asked if he would apologise for using the term, Mr Cameron said: "I think if you listen to the interview, I immediately said we shouldn't settle for second best and that is exactly what I meant to say.



"I speak often quickly, I don't just have a pre-arranged order of saying things and sometimes you can get a little word out of place and I immediately said, if you listen to the clip, we shouldn't settle for second best, that was the point I was making."



To widespread guffaws from the assembled media, he added: "We shouldn't settle for second best is what I meant, it's largely what I said, if you skip over a quick word in the middle."







In a letter to The Times today ahead of Wednesday's publication of the Health and Social Care Bill, the heads of six health unions expressed their "extreme concerns" about plans to create greater commercial competition between the NHS and private companies within the health service.



The signatories, including BMA chairman Hamish Meldrum, RCN chief executive Peter Carter and the heads of health for the Unison and Unite unions, said: "There is clear evidence that price competition in healthcare is damaging."



It follows a report by the NHS Confederation which acknowledged the potential benefits of the changes, which will give GPs power over commissioning treatment, but warned they were "extraordinarily risky" at a time when the NHS is facing its toughest financial constraints for a decade.



TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the Government's plans would lead to the "destruction" of quality services across the public sector.



"Ministers are using the challenge of the deficit to cover a fundamental transformation of public services, which voters would have rejected if it had been put forward at the General Election," he said.



"We are not talking about a few years of economy as the deficit reduces, but a systematic and permanent reduction in services.



"The Government's clear aim is a permanently smaller state, markets taking over from public accountability and privatisation's profit motive replacing public service - deficit reduction is just the cover story."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
i100Most young people can't
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Soft Developer (4.0, C#, Windows Services, Sockets, LINQ, WCF)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer (4.0, C#, Windows ...

C# Developer -Winforms, VB6 - Trading Systems - Woking

£1 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading financial software house with its He...

C #Programmer (.Net 4.0/4.5/ C#) -Hertfordshire-Finance

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: C #Developer (.Net 4.0/4.5/ C#, A...

JQuery Developer JQuery, UI, Tomcat, Java - Woking

£1 per annum: Harrington Starr: JQuery Developer JQuery, UI, Tomcat, Java - Tr...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home