John Reid, the health secretary, will anger those he calls the chattering classes today by claiming that his plans to give patients more choice over their health care will empower the working class.
In a speech to a thinktank, the New Local Government Network, today, he will argue that the extension of choice, including the gradually ex tended offer of state-funded care in the private sector, helps the poor despite opposition from many NHS staff.
His remarks will unnerve some in the Labour party who fear that patient choice will drive up costs. A recent biography of Gordon Brown claims that the chancellor opposes the private sector becoming a mainstream part of the NHS.
But Mr Reid will say: “I think there is no contradiction between being a consumer and believing in publicly funded public services. It is the chattering classes that refuse to understand, or who claim that choice will benefit the middle classes.”
From the end of the year patients will have the right to choose from at least four different healthcare providers, including one independent provider, and by 2008 they will be able to choose from any provider “so as they meet clear NHS standards and are able to do so within the national maximum price that the NHS will pay for treatment…”.
Mr Reid will say: “We are redefining the NHS as the right to choose care free at the point of need and not based on the ability to pay.”
He will argue that the Tory version of choice subsidises the wealthy to be healthy. The Conservatives propose that if a patient chooses a more expensive private hospital, the state will pay half the cost.
John Reid says that private healthcare will benefit poor. The Guardian reports that in a speech to the New Local Government Network today John Reid will say that the extension of choice, including the extension of state-funded care in the private sector, helps the poor. He will reportedly say: “I think there is no contradiction between being a consumer and believing in publicly funded services. It is the chattering classes that refuse to understand, or who claim that choice will benefit the middle classes”