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NHS ‘improved under Labour’, but tough times ahead, say King’s Fund

By Gareth Iacobucci

The NHS in England has improved significantly under Labour's stewardship, particularly in providing faster treatment and easier access to services, according to a major review by The King's Fund.

But the report on the past 13 years of the NHS was less positive about Labour's record on reducing health inequalities, with the health gap between rich and poor as wide as ever, and cancer survival rates still trailing much of Europe, despite some signs of improvement.

A high performing NHS? A review of progress 1997-2010 also outlines the daunting challange ahead for the NHS in maintaining standards against a backdrop of financial, public health and demongraphic challenges.

Professor Chris Ham, chief executive of The King's Fund, said: ‘Back in 1997, the NHS was in intensive care. As a result of investment and reform, it is now in active rehabilitation and is delivering more care to more people, more quickly.

‘The next government faces a huge challenge in nursing the NHS to full health at a time when funding will grow very slowly, if at all. Doing more of the same is no longer an option.

‘The NHS must now transform itself from a service that not only diagnoses and treats sickness but also predicts and prevents it. If the same energy and innovation that went into reducing waiting times and hospital infections could be put into prevention and chronic care, the NHS could become truly world class.'

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