Transcript of the Prime Minister's Broadcast on the NHS Plan
Friday 28 July 2000
The creation of the National Health Service back in 1948 lifted a massive worry from people's lives.
For the first time, health care did not depend on wealth. Need, not ability to pay, was what mattered.
Every family in Britain - and certainly mine - has its own reasons to thank the creators of the NHS and the expertise and dedication of its nurses and doctors.
But while support for the NHS remains strong - and in particular for its founding principles - in recent years there's been increasing concern.
Concern, for instance, about growing delays and patchy standards of care. About why health funding has not kept pace with other comparable countries.
And these concerns, in turn, have fed fears about the very survival of the Health Service in the new century.
I understand these fears but I don't share them. I believe the values and principles behind the Health Service are as relevant today as they were 50 years ago.
But I also accept that only by renewing and modernising our health service fundamentally can we re-assure the country that the Health Service will continue to meet its health needs
This has meant confronting two problems which have hamstrung the effectiveness of the Health Service over decades - chronic under-funding number one, and two, the shortcomings of a system designed really to meet the health needs and ambitions of 1948.
We tackled the under funding first.
Because we've taken steps as a government to restore stability to the economy, public finances being put back in shape and because we've created the conditions where there are now a million fewer people in benefit and a million more people in work the country can now afford the record - and sustained - investment that the NHS needs over the next few years.
This year's Budget delivered an annual funding increase of more than 6% above inflation for those four years - twice the real-terms increase that the NHS has received over its history.
But past lack of investment is not to blame for all the shortcomings in the Health Service.
It can't explain for instance, why services in one hospital can be so much better than those in another in the same town.
Indeed, sometimes the whole debate about shortage of money has helped mask other serious failures in the health service which risk wasting the extra investment that we now want to put in.
So the challenge we laid down when we announced the extra money is that the Government would deliver the investment but the money had to be accompanied by modernisation and reform of the chronic system failures of the NHS.
That's what the first ever National Plan for the NHS, published on Thursday, delivers.
It's ambitious but it is realistic. Its a plan rooted in the experience of patients and thousands of front-line NHS staff, at every level and in every part of the country who have helped draw it up.
I know, because I've had dozens of meetings with them over the last few months as I've worked to help draw this up.
And together we've produced this plan for the future of our health service. It's a clear strategy, with sustained investment, to deliver real improvements for the patient.
At every level, there will be radical change. And every reform will be driven by the goal of redesigning the NHS around the needs of the patient.
We will tackle the shortage of staff through 7,500 more consultants and 20,000 extra nurses.
And by recruiting more staff, removing unnecessary barriers between professions, modernising contracts for doctors and rewarding and encouraging excellence, we will improve the service for patients and end the culture of waiting in the Health Service.
By 2004 patients will be able to see their GP within 48 hours.
By 2005, the maximum waiting time for an out-patient appointment will be three months, for in-patients six months.
By 2010 we will have 100 new hospital schemes.
We will see modern matrons to ensure high standards on the wards
Patients' champions in every hospital
And a new agreement with the private sector so that we can use their spare beds and operating theatres for NHS patients where appropriate.
There will also be a guarantee for patients whose surgery is cancelled at the last minute that the operation taking place quickly.
Better care for patients at home so that they don't block beds unnecessarily and can recuperate better is also part of the plan.
As is regular inspections of hospitals to ensure they are meeting new national standards on care and treatment
In essence we are trying to reform and modernise every aspect of the Health Service. In addition we need to provide through the Health Service Dignity, security and independence in old age.
It will take time, of course, to achieve all this. But a whole range of people who work in or value our health service believe it offers, this plan, a genuine opportunity to re-build the Health Service for the 21st century.
If we meet this challenge - and this Government is determined we will - the health service will continue to be a source of pride and security for the people of this country for decades to come.