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Margaret Beckett's third way: cooperation and partnership

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 01 July 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:13

This week Britain's Labour party is expected to announce its new health policy. Tony Delamothe talked to Labour's shadow health secretary, Margaret Beckett, as she was putting the finishing touches to it.

TD: How will your new policy document differ from Health 2000, released last year by your predecessor, David Blunkett?

MB: Health 2000 was a consultation document that ranged across the whole field of health. I decided not to try to cover its range because the responses that came back focused on three things: the internal market, trusts run as independent competing units, and fundholding. We're opposed to all three, and our new document shows that there is another way.

To the public it seems so simple: why don't we just go back to the old NHS? But you can't go back; it no longer exists. I quote Sandy Macara every day: “There is no longer one national health service. There are 100 ‘purchasing consortiums' and 400 provider units, each with its own self serving view of its best interests in the battle for survival.” And we can't stay where we are now because we are heading towards privatisation at helter skelter speed--we won't have a health service again. What we're looking for is the third way--a modern health service that won't be just like the old one. We'll have built in means to deliver efficiency that weren't available under the old health service but are necessary.

TD: Conservative policy on the NHS has been to leave it to market forces, while Labour's policy seems based on the belief that such a programme would be disastrous. What's wrong with the internal market?

“I quote Sandy Macara every day”


MB: It's not a system that assesses the needs of patients and then tries to meet them. It's a …

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