Health professionals managing their own hospitals will be in competition to attract patients under plans from the Conservative Party.
Tory policy supremo Oliver Letwin said the “completely different arrangement” would retain the principle that NHS care should be free to patients at the point of use, but would allow different providers to deliver it under the NHS umbrella by using NHS tariffs.
The party believes better use can be made of the health system’s budget within the existing NHS framework by ditching centrally-set targets and taking decision-making power out of the hands of bureaucrats and into those of doctors.
Details of the proposals are to be published by shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley at the party’s annual conference in Birmingham.
Mr Letwin told a conference fringe meeting hosted by BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “It doesn’t follow from the fact that (the NHS) is a taxpayer-funded service that it has to be a bureaucratically managed service.
“It can be a service which allows for competition of providers – each of them providing it free at the point of use – and with patients making choices about where they want to go on the basis of outcomes delivered, and where instead of the bureaucrats managing it the professionals are managing it in the hospitals, the GP surgeries and competing with each other for patients.
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