When pressed after his first address as health secretary, Mr Burnham could not guarantee real-term growth would continue beyond 2011, but conceded that ‘the NHS is not immune to what’s happening in the wider world’.
He announced that the top performing PCTs in England would be given greater autonomy and freedom from the DoH and SHAs, and management would have the power to advise or take over failing PCTs.
Mr Burnham committed to scrapping targets from the NHS but said the major targets, like 18-week referral times, would become minimum standards.
His jocular speech at the NHS Confederation’s annual conference in Liverpool yesterday went down well with delegates, with Mr Burnham telling his former employers in NHS management: ‘please don’t show my expenses to the BMA.’
Reducing health inequalities and promoting healthy lifestyles were a personal passion of his, said Mr Burnham.
‘We cannot underestimate the importance of preventing disease. It is estimated that if PCTs improve their performance on key health outcomes such as smoking, alcohol, cardio vascular disease mortality, diabetes and stroke over the next five years this could result in a 10-15% reduction in health inequalities,’ he said.
Liberal Democrat shadow health secretary Norman Lamb said that Mr Burnham did not realise the urgency of the funding shortfall approaching and warned the government was ‘sleepwalking into a funding crisis’.
Mr Lamb would scrap the National Programme for IT and would focus the QOF on preventing diseases rather than treating them.
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