Letter: Remains of the NHS

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The Independent Online
Sir: President Bill Clinton's proposals for US health service reform followed seven months' fact finding by Hillary Clinton and her task force. They were put forward after extensive, publicised and countrywide discussions with doctors, patients, nurses, hospital managers and other interested parties.

What a contrast to the Conservative Party's attempt to reform our health service. This started with Mrs Thatcher's explosion of anger about NHS costs. After unadvertised discussions with a handful of cronies, the ill-conceived and disastrous proposals for NHS reform were pushed through in haste, regardless of widespread criticism. The results are already plain to see.

I fear that the Labour Party, as it tries to formulate alternatives to the current marketplace chaos and squalor, is also not consulting widely enough. Its leaders may not realise that many people - doctors, nurses, paramedics, Community Health Councils - are longing to help thrash some way out of the maze.

The Labour Party's task force, if it exists, has an exceptionally low profile. Why is it not arranging public discussions at which its proposals can be debated, criticised, amended and costed? Fringe meetings at party conferences are no substitute. The party will only get support from uncommitted voters at the next general election if it is able to bring forward carefully thought out and practicable proposals to save what remains of the NHS.

Yours sincerely,

C. J. DICKINSON

London, NW3

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