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2006 - A year of transition, a year of reform
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10th January 2006
Dr Luke Koupparis

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt will today set out the key challenges for the NHS for 2006.

She will say that 2006 will be a key year of transition for the NHS.

"We have to keep on delivering improvements for patients; we must restore financial balance in order to get the best value from the investment we are making; and we have to embed the reforms as we move towards a patient-led NHS."

She will say:

“The NHS has improved dramatically since the 80s and early 90s. We are building more hospitals than ever before, improving long-neglected services like mental health, treating more people than ever before, and reforming the way we work at the same time as increasing investment.

“But now is the time to increase the pace of reform and to widen the scope of our ambition - because we are within sight of an NHS where patients’ demands and aspirations will be the key driver towards better, faster care and greater efficiency and value for money.

“If NHS staff think that ministers are demanding, just wait until the patients are in charge. That is our goal – an NHS which looks outwards to the people it serves, not inwards to politicians.”

She will outline four main elements to NHS reform:

more choice and a much stronger voice for patients, with patients’ new rights to choose between hospitals transforming the way local services respond to the public
money following patients, rewarding the most efficient providers and giving the rest a real incentive to improve
more diverse providers, with more freedom to innovate
a framework of regulation and decision-making that guarantees quality, fairness, equity and value for money.
Patricia Hewitt will also set out a number of key documents to be published in 2006 to guide the NHS: system guidance and requirements for 2006/07, to link together the key elements of finance, delivery and reform; framework documents on commissioning, the future of provider reform, and system governance and management; and a framework for the future of payment by results.

She will look forward to the forthcoming White Paper on improving health and care in the community as a key milestone for 2006:

“We know that the public want more improvements in their community-based services. Our consultations suggest that people want services that are more convenient, provide better support for people with ongoing needs, and which enable people to lead healthier and independent lives.

“We will deliver these improvements by putting in place the right systems and local incentives for change, rather than a top-down programme of reform driven from Whitehall. This will include more effective commissioning, partnership working between organisations, managed competition and the freedom to innovate.”

She will add:

“A truly patient-led NHS will mean real differences for our friends and neighbours: the expectant mother who can make choices about pain relief and where she has her baby; the busy commuter who can get his checkup at the station before catching the train home; a retired mother who chooses to have her hip operation at a hospital near where her son lives so that he can look after her while she recovers.”

“I am proud of NHS staff, proud of NHS achievements, and proud of the massive improvements the NHS has delivered. But I remain ambitious for the good to become the best and for excellence to become the norm.”

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