Celebrating his 40th birthday today, David Cameron will promise an NHS Independence Bill for the Health Service’s 60th birthday (due in 2008).  The Bill, the Tory leader will promise, will stop the NHS from being used as a political football and he will invite Gordon Brown to work with him in on the Bill’s details so that a cross-party consensus might emerge.  The Chancellor has already touted the idea of independent oversight of the NHS – modelled on his Bank of England reforms.

The Sun welcomes the Tory announcement:

"Surprise, surprise . . . a Tory policy is surfacing.  They will turn the NHS over to non-political control.  It’s an idea with merit.  Changes of direction by politicians have done plenty of damage to our health service. It needs a long spell under a new professional leadership.  Politicians might also consider how much benefit their bickering has brought to schools down the years.  The answer is: Not much."

Mr Cameron and Andrew Lansley will launch the party’s nationwide NHS campaign today at a visit to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital.  Targets will be scrapped under the Independence Bill and hospitals and health authorities set free from Whitehall control.

During an interview for last night’s Westminster Hour, Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley outlined the new Tory vision for the NHS:

  • He began by saying that Labour had been right to pour more resources into the NHS and but had been wrong not to use that extra spending to lubricate much needed reforms.
  • As the Tories share the proceeds of growth between extra public spending and lower taxation the NHS will be given the resources it needs.
  • The NHS is the British people’s number one priority and it is the Conservative Party’s number one priority, too.  It will be at the front of the queue for additional resources.
  • The Tories will be opposing all cuts where they are driven by short-term financial needs rather than by patients needs or ‘service redesign’.
  • It is right that NHS Trusts that have managed their affairs in a less-than-competent way should have to reorder their affairs but it is equally true that the local people that that Trust serves should not have to suffer the full consequences.
  • NHS resources need to be reallocated – wealthier areas still have health needs and skewing an extreme share of the NHS budget on the poorest areas can go too far.
  • There needs to be much more independence of resource allocation so that decisions are made on the basis of clinical need rather than government targets.