UK Politics

Liam Fox calls for end to protection of NHS spending

Liam Fox at the 2010 Conservative Party conference
Image caption Liam Fox made a call to end the ringfencing of NHS spending last year

The automatic protection of spending on the National Health Service should not continue after the next election, says former defence secretary Liam Fox.

The promise to increase spending on the NHS - even when many departments faced big cuts - was one of David Cameron's key messages at the 2010 election.

But Dr Fox says the idea that "throwing money" at it "will make it better" had been "tested to destruction".

The Conservative MP for North Somerset was a GP before entering Parliament.

Dr Fox, who resigned in 2011 after a lobbying row, came third in the Conservative leadership election in 2005 and remains a popular figure on the right of the party.

In an interview with The Times newspaper Dr Fox said the increase in funding to the NHS over the past decade "has been phenomenal and yet a lot of our health indicators lag behind other countries, particularly things like stroke outcome or a lot of cancer outcomes".

"We've become obsessed with throughput and not outcomes and that has been hugely to the detriment of the patients in our system.

"If you treat the National Health Service itself as being the important entity, and not the patients, then you're on a hiding to nothing."

Tax cut

Dr Fox added: "Anybody who has worked with or around the NHS knows there is still a huge amount of waste associated with it."

He also said that medical staff who went along with the concept of targets should carry some responsibility for events such as the Mid Staffs failings in care.

"Patients ought to be treated on the basis of their medical need. The idea that you would put patients in a different order to achieve a political outcome by arithmetic means, I find difficult to reconcile with basic ethics."

Dr Fox made a similar call to end the ringfencing of NHS spending last year, which Mr Cameron rejected saying: "As prime minister I'm never short of advice, but there's one piece of advice I won't take - that's the piece of advice saying you ought to cut the National Health Service budget."

In his interview Dr Fox also said the Conservatives should avoid attacking UKIP leaders and voters and instead seek to win them back with the promise of a "totemic" tax cut, a pledge to loosen Britain's ties with the European Union and tighter immigration rules.

The UK Independence Party has no MPs but is hoping to come top of the European elections being held in May this year.

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