Letter: Labour: how we will restore the NHS as a great public service

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The Independent Online
Sir: You commented (28 April) that all parties in this election had "almost completely ignored the NHS's plight". We in the Labour Party - with three national press conferences, a poster campaign, a series of interviews, speeches and party election broadcasts - certainly haven't.

We believe that the future of the NHS has in fact been one of the most important issues in the election campaign. And although we don't claim that it is possible to put everything right overnight, we are determined to make a serious start on the restoration of the NHS as a great public service run in co-operation for patients rather than as a cluster of squabbling commercial businesses.

As part of that purpose we intend to reduce the costs of bureaucracy and administration in the NHS and direct resources out of paperwork and into patient care.

Your article (30 April), claiming that this would be impossible without either losing jobs or increasing administrative costs (both claims were made in the same article) ignored the specific proposals we have to end the internal market processes which are the root cause of the problem. We want to replace 3,000 fundholding units with 500 commissioning groups. We will replace annual contracts with three to five-year agreements. We will end the paperchase of individual patient invoicing. All of these changes will reduce bureaucratic costs and help us to devote extra resources to improving patient care.

These proposals are not just about saving money, reducing bureaucracy and getting more patients off the waiting lists. They are also about transforming the entire competitive culture that has caused such damage over recent years.

CHRIS SMITH

Labour Campaign Headquarters

London N1

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