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1996 - Mr Major’s Comments on the Health Service

Below are extracts of Mr Major’s comments on the health service, made during an interview held in London on Wednesday 13th November 1996.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked what plans he had for the Health Service].

PRIME MINISTER:

This is a strategy paper to look at the Health Service, not just tomorrow, not the day-to-day decisions on takes, but to actually look at the strategy for the Health Service 5 years, 10 years, 15 years ahead. And there are areas in it where we will now consult further on management training, on the use of new information technology, that is an area of particular interest and other areas as well. But what it seeks to do is to re-state the commitment to the Health Service, make the point that the resources are going to continue to be available, as necessary, and make the point also that the resources that are needed are affordable within a growing economy. The Health Service is going to develop, we wish it to develop well.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if there would be privatisation].

PRIME MINISTER:

There is no question of privatisation in the Health Service, there never has been. If we were going to privatise the Health Service we would have done it in the last 17 years, we patently aren’t. The Health Service is going to have private capital coming into it in addition to the public commitment, that has been happening for years with things like the Private Finance Initiative. But the National Health Service is the National Health Service and it is not going to be privatised.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he agreed with Labour’s view that large sums of money was wasted on administration in the Health Service].

PRIME MINISTER:

They do talk such nonsense, don’t they? If they are really concerned about 100 million pounds, why did they oppose the abolition of the regional health authorities, which you might well say were administrators, and would save 100 million pounds? We have proposals to save three times that amount at the moment actually going through the National Health Service.

Here we have a service that spends 35 billion pounds a year. It is necessary to make sure that the resources are directed to the right sort of area, that is what it is about.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked why the highest paid staff in the National Health Service were administrators and not doctors].

PRIME MINISTER:

I doubt as much as you though Adam, so things are not too bad. I very much doubt that that stands up to careful examination. If you look at what is actually happening in the Health Service you are seeing a growing demand and a growing supply of health care. Now what is absolutely essential in a service of that size is that we direct the resources to where the medical need is. That can’t be done without adequate and secure management and that is what the proper management techniques are about. And I think if you look at them, if you take primary health for example, look at the fund-holders, there is an example of giving proper local management down to doctors. I think in a few months about 58 per cent of the public will be actually covered by general practitioners who are fund-holders. Now that was wildly attacked by the Labour Party some years ago, until very recently in fact, as being a waste of money and the wrong way ahead. As usual, they were wrong, we were right and they are now having to come off their policy because it is producing a better Health Service for people at the most direct level in primary health care.