Sunday, 11 November 2012

Ministers hail first 'contract' with NHS

The Coalition will try to seize the agenda on the NHS this week by setting new goals to improve the nation's health.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, will identify priorities including cutting deaths from heart and lung diseases, reducing infant mortality and improving care for dementia sufferers.

The aims will be laid down in what is being billed by ministers as a landmark for the NHS: its first ever "contract" with the Government.

Ministers will claim that the broad goals will do to more to improve health and wellbeing than Labour's focus on detailed targets for waiting times and treatments.

The NHS Mandate, to be unveiled in Parliament on Tuesday, will form an agreement between ministers and the NHS Commissioning Board, a new body which will supervise 212 GP-led commissioning groups when the Government's controversial NHS reforms take effect next year.

The Conservatives hope it will mark a fresh start following the Coalition row over the reforms, which were opposed by many Liberal Democrats and by doctors' leaders.

At the same time, ministers will announce improvements to maternity units - including bigger birthing pools so that expectant mothers can be joined by the father-to-be.

Double rooms will also be built, so that new fathers can stay overnight. Hospitals will be invited to bid for schemes from a new £25 million fund.

Dr Dan Poulter, the health minister, said: "The period after a baby is born is clearly a very joyous time but it is also a very stressful time.

"Hospitals need to respond to what women want, and what their families want. It might be a bigger birthing pool so that the mum and dad can both get in more easily – or it might be a question of providing double beds, so couples can be together when a premature baby has to stay in hospital."
An NHS service which currently provides information for parents of newborns will be extended, to provide advice to parents of infants up to 18 months, and to help diagnose signs of postnatal depression.

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