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Reforms 'threaten future of NHS'

Andrew Lansley's NHS reforms pose a "horrific" threat to the future of "the best public service in the world", the Government's former heart tsar has warned.

Professor Roger Boyle, who retired as the Government's National Director of Heart Disease and Stroke this month, said the plans will increase costs, create more bureaucracy and destroy key relationships that make the health service work.

In an interview with The Independent, the senior doctor called for "evolution, not revolution", attacking Mr Lansley for ignoring the NHS's past successes in his bid to open it up to private contractors.

"Competition means more providers, which means more contracts have to be placed which means transactional costs rise," the professor said. "The allegiances (of the private companies) will be to their shareholders not to the users of the services. We have already spent £1billion on redundancy payments. Is that value for money?"

Professor Boyle, who was appointed as the Department of Health's senior heart specialist in March 2000, added: "If the market was going to work the Americans would have cracked it. My 91-year-old American mother-in-law (who lives in Florida) has to fill in a 150 page form each year for her health insurance and then more forms each time she makes a claim.

"I favour evolution, not revolution. We could have got to the same point without this huge disruption. Everything has effectively stopped (while the reforms are thrashed out) except the focus on saving cash - it is very unsettling."

Professor Boyle described Mr Lansley's modernisation plans as "the ideas of one man acting without an electoral mandate". He also claimed the health secretary had not visited him until a fortnight ago, despite his success in reducing heart-disease death rates and cutting waiting times in the past decade. He said that all improvements in cardiovascular care had come from collaboration and leadership.

The heart specialist also criticised the amended reforms proposed by the NHS Future Forum, the independent panel formed in April to scrutinise Mr Lansley's original Health and Social Care Bill. "They appointed people (to the Future Forum) they knew would give them the answer they wanted," he said.

Health Minister Simon Burns said the reforms had widespread support from the future forum and would give "freedom and control to doctors, nurses and frontline professionals. "Modernising the NHS will both safeguard the future of our health service, and will deliver a world class health service that puts patients at the heart of everything it does," he added.

"Choosing to ignore the pressures our NHS faces threatens the very values we hold so dear - of a comprehensive health service, available to all, free at the point of use and based on need and not the ability to pay. We will not allow that to happen."


From Belfast Telegraph