Stop treating NHS 'as failing bank'

Patients waiting to see a doctor
Image caption Pressures have been growing on A&E units for a number of years

The government should stop treating the NHS in England like a "failing business or bank", an influential journal says.

In recent weeks, ministers have announced a bailout for A&E, the introduction of a price comparison website and talked of cost-cutting.

An editorial in the Lancet journal said such language was a "cynical" attempt to abdicate responsibility for the NHS.

The government said it was trying to improve services.

The journal also took issue with this year's reorganisation of the NHS, saying responsibility had become too fragmented.

But its strongest comments were reserved for some of the more recent policy announcements.

It said: "One might be forgiven for thinking that the current Coalition Government views the NHS as a failing bank or business.

"This stance is one of the most cynical, and at the same time cunning, ways by which the government abdicates all responsibilities for running a health-care system that has patient care and safety at its heart.

"Rather it expects the system, and in it each trust for itself, to be efficient, cost saving, and financially successful or else it is deemed a failing enterprise.

"Doctors, nurses, and health workers are readily blamed for the quality of care they provide within these constraints."

Health Minister Anna Soubry said: "Creating an efficient NHS and one which puts patient care at its heart is in the best interests of patients and is a priority for this Government.

"That is why we are introducing a Chief Inspector of Hospitals who will ensure patient care is a priority throughout the NHS and are encouraging hospitals to become more efficient with their resources so more money can be spent on the frontline."

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