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UK parties set out their health stalls in lead-up to next election

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.329.7456.14 (Published 01 July 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:14
  1. Kathryn Godfrey
  1. London

    Labour and the Conservatives last week proclaimed “patient choice” as the focus of their plans for the future of the health service, prior to the next general election, due to take place by June 2006 at the latest.

    The Labour government announced that from the end of 2005 patients will have the right to choose from at least four or five different healthcare providers. By 2008 patients will be allowed to choose from any provider, as long as it meets NHS standards and pricing levels.

    Meanwhile the Conservative opposition offered unrestricted and immediate choice at any NHS or private hospital—but at NHS prices. Their plans include the controversial measure of allowing patients to put 50% of the cost of NHS treatment towards buying private care.

    The health secretary, John Reid, outlined the government's five year NHS improvement plan in the House of Commons. It will update the NHS plan, a 10 year strategy produced in 2000.

    He claimed that significant improvements had been made since 1997, with increased capacity, including 19000 more doctors, and faster service access, with maximum waiting times down to nine months.

    Mr Reid said the government would now build on these improvements, offering “an even greater degree …

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