The general election

Health secretary Andy Burnham has started his election campaign with a speech outlining the key points of Labour’s health manifesto.

In a speech at the King’s Fund think-tank, he said the party would enable a more preventative, productive and patient-centred NHS.

Burnham did not mention the National Programme for IT in the NHS, but he did highlight the significance of the programme in enabling clinicians to share information.

In relation to PACS he said: “The national programme is playing a significant part here. It provides the ability for primary care and secondary care clinicians to look at the same image and then discuss that over the phone.”

Prime Minister Gordon Brown confirmed on Tuesday that a general election will be held on 6 May.

Parliament is sitting this week to ‘wash up’ outstanding bills, although a number of measures, including a landline tax to fund ‘super fast’ broadband across the country, are expected to fall.

All the signs are that the NHS will play a key part in the campaign. Conservative leader David Cameron made his first stop a hospital in Birmingham, following his party’s pledge to use £200m of national insurance ‘savings’ to fund cancer drugs.

At the King’s Fund, Burnham made cancer diagnosis a priority in creating a more preventive NHS.

He said Labour’s manifesto would include a pledge to provide patients with cancer test results within one week and referral to a cancer specialist within two weeks.

He repeated earlier pledges to embed patient choice in the NHS constitution. He also said that if a Labour government was returned there would be a further major shift in the way that providers are paid, with a clear link to “quality, clinical safety and patient satisfaction.”

Burnham also called for “better integration between out of hours, GPs and A&E in order to arrange treatment within the home” and said that social care services should be based on the same basis as the NHS.

The King’s Fund has launched its own paper detailing health priorities for an incoming government.

These include improving productivity in the system rather than making structural changes, improving incident reporting and measuring quality and a comprehensive reform of social care.

According to market research company Ipsos Mori, Labour currently has a nine point lead over the Conservatives on health policy. However, the Conservatives continue to lead Labour overall.