29/09/2005

NHS plan defeat for Labour party leadership

The Labour Party leadership has suffered an embarrassing defeat over proposals to increase private company involvement in health care.

Unison leader David Prentis accused the Labour Party of "government by diktat" and asked if the party's vision was really a health service "driven not by patient need, but by profits and markets."

Urging the government not to repeat "Tory mistakes" and consulting on such changes, Mr Prentis had said there was no mention of these major changes in the provision of Primary Care Trusts the Labour Party manifesto.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said that the NHS had always used the private sector, and that using such services was the only way to reduce waiting times.

The motion, which called for no more private sector care in the NHS, was narrowly rejected by the constituency Labour Party delegates, but the union delegate vote was 99.9% opposed to the motion and it was carried by 71%.

Ms Hewitt said the government was not proposing privatisation.

Mr Blair, in his speech to conference earlier this week, conceded that efforts to improve public services with private sector involvement had proved unpopular with some Labour members and the unions.

The Labour Party leadership was also defeated over its refusal to re-instate the link between earnings and state pensions. While delegates backed the union motion to re-instate the link, abolished under the Thatcher government, it is not thought likely that the vote will result in a change in Labour Party policy.

(SP/KMcA)

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