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Blair issues NHS priorities

Expanding patient choice is a higher priority for the NHS than cutting deficits, the Prime Minister has told the Health Secretary.

In a letter written after his ministerial reshuffle, Tony Blair said offering more choices, including a greater choice of GP, was key to improving serv-

ices and getting value for money.

Access to the NHS was third in Mr Blair's list of priorities for Patricia Hewitt, notably achieving the 18-week maximum wait from GP referral to treatment.

He also stressed that improving social care was a 'crucial' part of health service policy and he wanted to see more patients given individual budgets to spend as they chose. Encouraging the public to make healthier lifestyle choices was the final priority.

He emphasised that the Department of Health had to develop a plan to engage patients and health service staff.

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