John Spiers: Tories must offer power to the patient

From a speech by the University of Glamorgan visiting professor to a fringe meeting at the Conservative conference
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The Independent Online

Putting patients first means giving the individual direct control over funds. Direct market incentives are the key to sharpening the understanding of opportunity and of individual service in an alternative approach to good health care for all. Plurality of provision and diversity will be the result.

To achieve these gains we should seek comprehensive change, rather than giving into vested interests by half-way measures. My proposal is for "Patient Guaranteed Care", which will be a core package paid for by mandatory social insurance. The individual will control a personal tax-based fund and be called "Patient Fund Holders".

To the Conservative Party I would say: be bold. The party says it wants to ensure that patients have real choice in health. Its "Health Passport" is similar to my idea of making every adult a "Patient Fund Holder", with a tax-based credit to pay for health care in the NHS, or the voluntary, or the independent sector. I believe the patient should control 100 per cent of the funds. I do not understand the logic of an argument which says patients must control funds, so here is 60 per cent.

The Labourist alternatives will not do the job. Decentralisation, increased consultation, stunts like consultation days, patients having a greater say - none of these are sufficient in themselves. To make these things possible there is a major job of public education to do. The job of the Conservative Party is to clarify first principles of liberty, self-responsibility, and choice, by which all reform ideas, all change can be assessed.

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