Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

More efficiency in NHS hospitals

Letter to the Times - December 10th 2001

Sir

Julia Neuberger is wrong to say (letter, December 3) that if we want a "world class" health service "we need to focus less on how it is funded and more on how it is managed and delivered".

As a doctor I am more than aware of the damage which managerial reforms can do to the ethos of an organisation with a strong public service tradition. This is especially so when those reforms are introduced simply to avoid addressing the funding issue which has to be tackled if we are to significantly reduce waiting lists and cancellations and increase the numbers of beds, doctors, nurses, and survival rates for life-threatening conditions such as cancer and heart disease.

We currently have the most socialist system of healthcare provision outside Cuba, Vietnam and the People's Republic of China. We could simply raise taxes year in, year out as a way of keeping up with an unlimited demand for healthcare or we can look to our European and Commonwealth partners such as Australia for lessons in how to provide stable and high-quality services in a way that commands public support, allows families to have a direct stake in their own healthcare and improves life expectancy for all.

The Conservative Party is more than happy to learn from our European neighbours when they do things better than us. Gordon Brown and Tony Blair should be prepared to do the same. Rigid mindsets are not a substitute for patient care, and nor are endless managerial reforms.

Dr. Charles Tannock MEP (Con)
Brussels