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Can Labour take the NHS to market?

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7512.359 (Published 04 August 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:359
  1. Jonathan Shapiro, senior fellow ([email protected])
  1. Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham

    Now that the Blair government's third term has started, its health policies are becoming clearer; ironically for a Labour government, at their heart is a market.

    The Conservative government of the 1990s tried to introduce an “internal market” in health care in which hospital services were intended to be market tested to make them more efficient and to offer patients more choice. It could never really have succeeded at that time; a right wing government, while being able to take for granted support from its own followers, would never have been able to convince more left wing voters to trust in a market philosophy.

    Only a government able to gain the confidence of more egalitarian minded voters would stand a chance of implementing a market policy. That is what has happened: the New Labour government seems to have made the notion of a healthcare market its own, only this time it's real, not “internal.”

    Markets work most effectively …

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