Free NHS from Whitehall yoke, says independent commission

20 Apr 00
The NHS should become a public corporation at arm's length from government, with its own board and operational freedom, according to a new commission of independent experts.

21 April 2000

The commission, headed by Industrial Society chief executive Will Hutton, says that the NHS should be removed from Department of Health control and should operate in a similar way to the BBC or the Bank of England. Health authorities should also be transformed into elected bodies to provide more local accountability.

Hutton said that the NHS needed to be more open and accountable. The public should be given a right of access to all meetings, minutes and policy papers of all executive and advisory public bodies within the NHS. 'People hold the NHS in high esteem, but after the recent rash of mistakes, scandals and underfunding, they want their faith restored,' he said.

The commission was set up by the Association of Community Health Councils for England and Wales. Other members include Professor Allyson Pollock from University College, London, and Professor Stuart Weir from the University of Essex.

Pollock said the NHS needed a constitution setting out the principles and practices under which it should operate. Such a system works in France, where the government is committed to the public provision of health services.

'If we enunciated the values in a constitution then it would be much more difficult for government to depart from that covertly,' she added.

An ICM poll carried out for the commission to inform the discussion found that the NHS was highly regarded. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said that the service was 'the most valuable institution for the country', but 43% thought it needed to improve 'quite a lot'.


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