Health secretary Andrew Lansley has issued a staunch defence of his NHS reforms, accusing critics of 'misrepresenting' the health bill and urging the devolved nations to follow England's lead.
In his keynote speech to delegates at the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Mr Lansley accussed his critics of ‘misinterpretation, misinformation and misrepresentation' over the Government's Health and Social Care Bill, insisting: ‘While I am secretary of state, the NHS will never be fragmented, privatised, or undermined.'
He also announced a further roll-out to the beleaguered personal health budgets programme, saying they will be rolled out to 50,000 people by 2014 as part of the Government's drive to give patients more say over the services they access.
Mr Lansley said 50,000 people eligible for NHS continuing care – predominantly those with complex medical conditions that require highly specialised care and support, would be given budgets by April 2014 as part of the push to take decision making closer to patients.
The Department of Health admitted back in May that the development of personal health budgets, currently being piloted in England with a view to a wider rollout next year, was being hampered by the NHS reforms and the financial squeeze.
But the DH has insisted the policy is 'here to stay', and Mr Lansley said the extended rollout would be ‘truly, putting patients at the heart of care'.
‘We will offer personal health budgets to the 50,000 people eligible for NHS Continuing Care. Budgets that will give them more control over how their needs are met, allowing them to choose support and services that suit them and their families,' he explained.
The health secretary also launched a stinging attack on the Welsh NHS. Pouring scorn on Labour's record on the NHS in Wales he said: ‘In England now there are new cancer drugs available to patients, which are not available on the NHS in Wales.'
‘In Wales, deaths from the infection, Clostridium-difficile, four years ago were the same as in England? Now, in Wales, they are twice as high as in England.'
‘Labour should stop scaremongering about the NHS in England and start adopting in Wales the changes we are making. The people of Wales deserve better.'
Mr Lansley also used his speech to confirm that EU-trained doctors will be forced to take mandatory language tests before being allowed to practise in the NHS, to try and safeguard against a repeat of the Daniel Ubani case, as Pulse reported this morning.
Outlining his plans, Mr Lansley said: ‘To be clear professional standards, too, means we must be determined that doctors who come from overseas to work here must not only have the right qualifications, but also the language skills needed to practice here.