Don't ring-fence budget of 'wasteful' NHS says senior Tory

Liam Fox

Fox says cash won't solve NHS' problems and Tory manifesto shouldn't promise to protect budget

LAST UPDATED AT 10:35 ON Thu 2 Jan 2014

THERE are huge levels of waste within the NHS and it should not be "ring-fenced" from budget cuts, a senior Tory has said. 

 Liam Fox, the former defence secretary and shadow health secretary, told The Times that David Cameron was right to honour a pre-election pledge to increase NHS spending in real terms until 2015. But the same reassurance should not be included in the Conservatives' next manifesto, Fox said, because the idea that money could solve the health service's problems had been "tested to destruction".

Fox, who was a GP before embarking on a career in politics, said the UK continued to lag behind other countries in areas such as cancer outcomes despite massive investment in the health service. "The increase over the last decade has been phenomenal and yet a lot of our health indicators lag behind other countries, particular things like stroke outcome or a lot of cancer outcomes," he said. 

Spending on NHS has risen from about £57bn in 2002 to more than £105bn in 2012, The Times says. The Chancellor announced spending plans last year under which NHS spending would rise to £110.4bn by 2015-16. 

Citing the Mid Staffordshire scandal, Fox said that an obsession with targets and spending was "killing patients".  Although he blamed Labour for creating the obsession he said medical staff needed to accept some responsibility for the poor care experienced by some patients. 

"When I look at things like Mid Staffs, I see a breakdown in an understanding of what health care is all about," Fox said. "As a doctor myself, I do feel that the medical and nursing professions have some responsibility for having gone along with the whole concept of targets."

The Guardian says that Fox's call to end the ring-fencing of the NHS budget will resonate with many Tory MPs. Protected budgets have "proved unpopular with many Tory backbenchers who have been angered that a small number of budgets, including overseas aid, have been ring-fenced while the rest of government has been hit by swingeing cuts", the paper says. · 

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