Patricia Hewitt calls for improved family health services
May 20, 2005 - 11:25:38 PM
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt called on NHS leaders to kick start a big programme of public engagement in order to shape the future of NHS family health services.
Speaking to the National Leadership Network, Patricia Hewitt said:
"I said when I was appointed ten days ago that I wanted to spend the next few months listening and learning. I want to hear the views of people working in the NHS and Social Care. And I want to hear from the patients and users of its services about their experiences.
"My predecessors, Alan Milburn and John Reid, put in place a series of major structural reforms that were largely focussed on hospital services. Over the next few years we need to implement these changes, giving patients far more choice and control over their treatment, improving quality and safety, and delivering on our promise of a maximum 18 weeks between GP referral and treatment.
"I have already made clear there will be no back-tracking on the direction or pace of reform, and that under this government, healthcare will remain available to all according to clinical need and free at the point of use.
"However, the point of contact for most people with the NHS and Social Care system is their GP or other non-hospital services.
"Half-way through our ten-year programme of investment and reform, it is now time to focus more closely on the family health services provided by GPs, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, paramedics and others in primary and non-scheduled care. Most people value greatly the continuity of care provided by their GP service. But we are also seeing many new ways of getting health care NHS Direct, walk-in and minor injuries centres, treatment provided by paramedics from the ambulance service and so on.
"In the forthcoming White Paper promised by the Prime Minister, we will set out a vision for family health services fit for the 21st century. Everyone will have their views to contribute. Because we want the White Paper to be firmly based on the experience and expectations of patients as well as practitioners, I will be initiating a programme of public engagement in which we will invite people to help design the twenty-first century health service outside hospitals.
"I want the National Leadership Network to play a central role in this important task. Over the next few months as I go round visiting the front-line for myself, listening and learning, I want you - leaders from all parts of the NHS and Social Care - to consult staff in your organisations and users in your areas about what sort of family health services they want to see.
"It is vital that any future changes should come from the bottom up and not be imposed from the top down. The aspirations and expectations of patients and the public about their family health services should be the starting point for the next stage of reform. I invite you to join me in this exciting challenge."
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