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Watchdogs say health reforms are slow

Patients yet to really benefit from NHS overhaul - says report

OnMedica Staff

Friday, 13 June 2008

Patients have yet to see any significant benefits from the government's billion-pound overhaul to the National Health Service, two independent watchdogs have said.

While general NHS standards have improved, patients were still failing to feel any significant benefits because reforms were not ‘delivering the desired changes’ concludes the Healthcare Commission and the Audit Commission in a joint report.

The report said that NHS officials had underestimated the complexity of overhauling the health system, although it said, in the long term it expected the reforms to pay off.

Officials from the two bodies estimated the reforms, unveiled almost a decade ago by Tony Blair, have cost taxpayers close to one billion pounds.

But they could not say whether the reforms had been good value for taxpayers' money, saying they needed another two years to properly assess them.

In their joint report: "Is the treatment working? Progress with the NHS system reform," they said there was still a lack of choice of treatment centres and not enough information to allow patients to make a proper decision.

Healthcare Commission Chairman, Ian Kennedy, said reforms had been hampered because "they were not obviously driven by a clear vision or objective".

He labelled the NHS vision and strategy as "fair" but added: "The possibility of future improvements is... probably good".

Commenting on the report, King’s Fund Director of Policy, Anna Dixon, said: "We agree with the report’s recommendations that greater effort is needed to improve the quality of commissioning, particularly by engaging GPs better. We also agree that much more work is needed to ensure the availability and quality of information about health care services."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the report was balanced and helpful.

"It confirms that patient choice, Foundation Trusts, new providers and payment by results are bringing benefits and that we should press on with these policies rather than changing tack," she said.

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