Letter: Labour's agenda on health care

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The Independent Online
Sir: Andrew Marr (17 February) complains of no new thinking in the Labour Party and dismisses the new health document Health 2000.

Labour's agenda on health does not 'implicitly accept' the main Conservative changes, nor is it looking backwards. It offers joint commissioning as a real alternative to the two-tier system of GP fund-holding. It offers accountable hospital boards as an alternative to the present unaccountable trust boards. It proposes a planned and democratic system of commissioning to replace the internal market, while accepting that there should be a split between the commissioner and the provider.

However, that is merely our response to the changes introduced by the Conservatives. Health 2000 has three main themes for Labour health policy: putting the patient first, the importance of preventing ill health and the need to plan for primary care. Each of these ideas carries with it positive proposals giving patients new rights of redress and treatment, making practical suggestions to curb smoking and to improve occupational health and recognising the very real potential of planning the development of new technology and genetic research to provide health care closer to people's homes.

These are new ideas, and there are many more in Health 2000, but we will consult on its detail over the next year so that we get it right in government. Yours sincerely,


MP for Sheffield

Brightside (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

17 February

The writer is Labour health