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Conservatives' health plans under fire

By Nigel Praities

Conservative Party plans to simplify the QOF and introduce more market-based reforms into the NHS are ill-defined and unlikely to be any more successful than Labour's, says a leading primary care expert.

Professor Chris Ham, professor of health policy and management at the University of Birmingham, said target-based initiatives in the NHS had been more successful than competition at improving patient care.

In an editorial in the latest BMJ, he criticises Conservative plans to reduce targets and increase competition for simply accelerating the policies began under Tony Blair and said they were likely to have little extra impact.

Professor Ham says the opposition needs to urgently explain the ‘missing details' of their policies and how they will be different from Labour.

‘Improvements in NHS care made in the last decade, such as major reductions in the time patients wait for treatment, have been driven largely by "targets and terror"—the very approach the Conservatives reject—together with increased spending,'

‘The onus is therefore on the Conservatives to explain how their version of competition will be more successful than the current government's approach,' he said.

Policy papers reveal the Conservatives plans to renegotiate the GMS contract to simplify QOF and incorporate patient-reported measures relating to health outcomes and patient satisfaction.

They also recently announced they would axe the Extended Access DES and scrap targets for evening and weekend opening.

This prompted GPC chair Laurence Buckman warn GPs ‘Don't think it will be better under the Tories.'

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley was unavailable for comment.

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