The most fundamental and far-reaching programme of reform in the history of the NHS has been published by Health Secretary Alan Milburn.
The NHS Plan: A Plan for Investment. A Plan for Reform will create an NHS in which the patient is the most important person. In the future, care and treatment will be redesigned around their needs, at their convenience.
Mr Milburn said:
"This is the most fundamental and far-reaching reform programme. For the first time the Government has faced up to the breadth and depth of problems in the NHS and has addressed them all in turn. From the state of the wards to the doctor's contract, not one issue has been ducked. By being honest in our analysis of the problems we have been able to produce the most radical of reforms."
The major areas of reform in the NHS Plan are as follows:
investment in NHS facilities including 7,000 extra beds and 100 new hospital schemes between 2000 and 2010, to be funded by the historic extra resources announced in the Budget (6.3 per cent annual real terms growth
- investment in NHS staff including 7,500 more consultants, 2,000 new GPs, 20,000 more nurses and over 6,500 extra health professionals
- changed systems for the NHS including a new NHS Modernisation Agency and a National Performance Fund worth #500 million by 2003/4. Also a National Independent Panel to advise on major hospital changes
- changes between health and social services including an extra £900 million investment in intermediate care by 2003/4, and New Care Trusts, combining health and social services
- changes for NHS doctors including new consultants contract, and new quality based contracts for GPs
- changes for NHS nurses, midwives, therapists and other NHS staff including new roles and responsibilities for nurses and new senior sisters, and better training
- changes for patients including greater choice and new protection. From 2002 if an operation is cancelled on the day of surgery for non-clinical reasons the hospital will have to offer another binding date within 28 days or fund surgery elsewhere. Patient representatives on Trust boards for the first time
- changes in the relationship between the NHS and the private sector including a concordat between the NHS and private providers
- cutting waiting times for treatment including by the end of 2005 the maximum waiting time for outpatients will be three months and the maximum waiting time for inpatients will be six months. New One-Stop out-of-hours service by 2004
- improving health and reducing inequality including every child in nursery, and those aged four to six in infant schools to receive a free piece of fruit each school day. Increased resources for deprived areas
- clinical priorities including expansion in the cancer screening programmes and waiting times for cardiac surgery to be cut
- dignity, security and independence in old age including higher standards of care for older people, a free NHS retirement health check, and a new Care Direct Service.