Tories will use any willing provider

The government's commitment to the NHS as 'the provider of choice' has had a 'damaging and chilling' effect on some parts of the health service, according to Conservative shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley.

Addressing the NHS Employers annual conference in Birmingham last week, Mr Lansley said that health secretary Andy Burnham's pledge that the NHS was 'our provider of choice' would limit the potential offered by organisations like social enterprises.

'I think it is having a damaging and chilling effect on social enterprises who are thinking that they can provide services to the NHS. We must look at who is best placed to provide the best care for our patients,' he said.

'From my point of view, we are committed to an any willing provider policy.'

Mr Lansley denied that Labour's work to reduce waiting times will be reversed if targets are scrapped under the Tories.

'I know of no evidence that supports 18 weeks as a target for reducing waiting times. What drives reduced waiting times is capacity and choice,' he said.

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