People who need an operation will wait no more than 18 weeks by 2008, Health Secretary John Reid said today.
Announcing the government's new NHS improvement plan, the Health Secretary said that care would continue to be provided according to need rather than ability to pay.
Improvements to the NHS include:
- an average of 7.6 per cent real terms growth in funding over the last four years;
- 67,500 more nurses and 19,000 more doctors;
- 68 new hospitals built, underway or planned;
- shorter waiting lists and waiting times; and
- a fall in deaths from cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Mr Reid said it was now time to renew the government's radical vision for the NHS, "offering to all our people equal access to, and the power to choose from, the widest possible range of services of the highest quality, based on clinical need and not ability to pay".
The NHS Improvement Plan sets out steps to shorten the patient journey from GP referral to treatment, ensuring an average wait of nine to ten weeks by 2008 and a maximum wait of 18 weeks.
It will also give patients more information about and choice over their treatment. There will be a choice of four to five hospitals for patients needing to be admitted for elective care. By 2008 every patient referred by their GP will be able to choose to be treated at any facility in England that meets NHS standards and can provide care at the NHS price for the procedure they need.
People with long term conditions like diabetes, asthma and heart failure will get personalised care through plans to provide thousands of community matrons, roll out the Expert Patients Programme and ensure that the new contract for GPs delivers the best care for patients.
The Minister also said that the NHS needs to become more than just a 'sickness service'. A White Paper in the autumn will set out plans to tackle the major causes of ill health, like smoking, obesity and sexually transmitted infections.
He said the NHS Improvement Plan will "ensure that the greatest gift ever from the people of this country to the people of this country - our NHS - is able to meet the expectations of all our people in the 21st century."