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Meeker the second time around

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 02 June 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:1326

Labour cannot exploit the public's anger over the state of the NHS, as they did in 1997. But, says Jo Revill, they still insist that they are the only party that can save it

The reforms of the health service form the centrepiece of Labour's election campaign. Increasing the number of nurses and doctors, investing in equipment and buildings, and, most controversially, importing private sector managers into the NHS to engineer a cultural change are messages that have been hammered home, day after day, at Labour's press conferences.

At the last election, Labour made the most of the public's anger over the deterioration of the hospitals and the escalating waiting lists. This time around, the party meekly admits that there is a lot to achieve but insists that Labour is the only party that would put in the money necessary to bring about the improvements. This has not prevented members of the public from confronting the prime minister on his televised hospital visits.

What does the manifesto tell us about their plans for a second term? The most important line in the chapter on health is that “over time, we will bring UK health spending up to the EU average.” The 6.1% increase in real terms each year over a second term would leave the UK just 0.4% behind the European average, according to the health secretary, Alan Milburn. But that figure also includes private health spending and leaves open …

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