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MP calls for end to protected NHS funding

Former GP says ring-fenced NHS spend is unjustified

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 03 January 2014

A senior Tory MP and former shadow health secretary has called for an end to the ring-fenced funding which protects spending on the NHS.

Dr Liam Fox, qualified as a GP and a former Cabinet member of the current coalition government, has claimed this protection is no longer justified and should end after the next general election in 2015.

Dr Fox, speaking in an interview with The Times newspaper, said the belief that money was the solution to the health service’s problems had been “tested to destruction” and the UK was still lagging behind other countries despite the significant investment of recent years.

The Conservative MP for North Somerset was shadow health secretary from 1999-2003 and defence secretary until 2011 when he resigned over a row about lobbying.

In his interview with The Times, Dr Fox said: “I think we've tested to destruction the idea that simply throwing lots more money at the health service will make it better.

“The increase over the last decade has been phenomenal and yet a lot of our health indicators lag behind other countries, particular things like stroke outcome or a lot of cancer outcomes.

“We've become obsessed with throughput and not outcomes and that has been hugely to the detriment of the patients in our system. If you treat the National Health Service itself as being the important entity, and not the patients, then you're on a hiding to nothing.”

Anyone associated with the NHS knew there was still a “huge amount of waste” associated with it, he claimed, and argued that clinicians who went along with the concept of targets should carry some responsibility for events such as the failures at Mid Staffs.

“Patients ought to be treated on the basis of their medical need,” he said. “The idea that you would put patients in a different order to achieve a political outcome by arithmetic means, I find difficult to reconcile with basic ethics.”

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