Redwoood blocks two NHS white-collar jobs: Minister renews campaign against Welsh health 'bureaucracy'

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The Independent Online
JOHN REDWOOD, the Cabinet minister who ran into political controversy late last year for attacking the number of 'grey suits' in the health service, has ordered a fresh review of NHS bureaucracy.

Mr Redwood, the Secretary of State for Wales, has called for an examination of the functions and staffing of the Welsh Health Common Services Authority, after blocking the appointment of two white-collar professionals at a cost of well over pounds 70,000 a year. The authority has 1,600 staff.

Mr Redwood has been in the vanguard among Cabinet colleagues in arguing that savings are possible in administration across Whitehall without affecting programmes.

His determination to push ahead with reforms of the NHS in Wales is a clear sign that he has not been deterred by the row over his attack on what he implied was a top-heavy management.

He was reported as having apologised to Virgina Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, for what he said was a 'press misinterpretation' of a speech in November in which he had remarked that the NHS reforms had so far created 1,500 administrative posts in Wales, yet just 20 jobs for doctors.

Mr Redwood last month ordered a ban on filling the two jobs in the authority approved by his predecessor, David Hunt.

One was for a 'capital planner' dealing with NHS property management and advertised at a salary of pounds 38,000 plus profit-related pay and leased car; the other was for an economist at pounds 30,000 with the same fringe benefits.

He is thought to be pressing senior civil servants to scrutinise whether the authority's staffing level is now needed when management is being devolved to hospital groups under the NHS trust reforms. The move comes as Mr Redwood is pressing the NHS to make further cuts in waiting lists for operations and hospital appointments.

He is also believed to be considering a further shake-up of the top administration of the NHS in Wales after the resignation, for unconnected reasons, of the NHS director in Wales, John Wynn Owen, to take up a post in Australia.

One idea that has been mooted is the merger of at least two of the health divisions in the Welsh Office itself.

David Blunkett, Labour's health spokesman, also returned to the subject yesterday, claiming that the Government's Patient's Charter had let down 2.5 million patients.

Mr Blunkett said that a written Commons answer before Christmas from Brian Mawhinney, the Minister for Health, showed that patients were not seen within target times between July and September last year. He said: 'Extra bureaucrats, more perks for managers and worse patient care are the hallmark of the changes to the National Health Service. Dr Mawhinney has shown once again that patients are losing out.'

Dr Mawhinney told him that 78 per cent of patients were seen within 30 minutes of their specified appointment times in outpatient clinics.

Mr Blunkett noted: 'That means 22 per cent were not seen in the specified time, which is a total of 2 million patients.'

Dr Mawhinney retorted: 'Between July and September last year, over 7 million outpatients were seen within 30 minutes. Of the accident and emergency cases, over 2 million were seen within five minutes. These are remarkable achievements and I congratulate all NHS staff in making them possible.

'Only Mr Blunkett could see this as some sort of failure.'