Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley has pledged to cut the cost of NHS bureaucracy by a third at the Conservative Party conference.
Lansley gave few details of where his £1.5 billion of savings would come from, although he attacked commissioning bodies, NHS quangos and “political” targets as examples of Labour profligacy.
He claimed that switching from targets that measured only part of the patient journey to “overall results” would reduce the number of administrative jobs needed to monitor them.
Despite his focus on cuts, Lansley also made a pitch for the Tories as “the party of the NHS”, saying they would increase spending in real terms, while eliminating waste.
“We need to do more to cut costs, more to ensure the axe falls on waste and bureaucracy and not in front line care, it will be hard but we will do it.”
He also made a bid to identify fewer targets and greater efficiency with quality. “It is a gross insult to doctors to say without targets they would let patients suffer and wait,” he said.
“Our vision is to make the NHS the finest health service in the world, so we will focus on results; on making one year and five year cancer survival rates as good as in Europe.
“On reducing mortality after A&E admissions. On zero tolerance of hospital infections. On results that matter, like a positive birth experience for every mother. These changes and many like them will only come if we push power out from the centre into the hands of health professionals.”
Lansley also repeated well-trailed pledges to give patients a choice of hospital and consultant, and to create an insurance scheme with a one-off premium of £8,000 at age 65 to stop older people losing their houses if they needed residential care.
He said patients would get a more powerful voice and personal budgets. However, he only mentioned IT in passing, saying that the Conservatives would give people control over their health records.
The Conservative Party is still consulting on how much control patients should have and how this should be achieved.
However, an E-Health Insider and Doctors.net.uk survey showed that doctors and NHS IT professionals are against bringing in commercial companies such as Microsoft and Google.
In the debate that followed Lansley’s speech, shadow health spokesman Stephen O’Brien touched on the party’s commitment to ‘dismantle’ much of the National Programme for IT in the NHS by continuing the theme of eliminating “Labour waste.”
“Labour has spent billions on IT that simply isn’t working,” he said. However, the EHI and Doctors.net.uk survey showed that readers wanted the national programme reformed and not scrapped.
Although some respondents welcomed the move towards trust-based purchasing of standards based systems, others argued that the Conservative proposals would be a step too far.