UK government unveils plans for NHS overhaul

The UK government on Wednesday unveiled draft legislation to overhaul England's NHS that is designed to trim as much as 1.7 billion pounds ($2.7 billion) a year from the programme. Under the government’s plan, which was first discussed in December, approximately 80 percent of the nation's total healthcare budget would be given directly to the country's 42 000 general practitioners, who would in turn develop consortia to negotiate spending decisions.

The current system of primary care trusts would be eliminated, as would Strategic Health Authorities, and the programme will instead be overseen by an independent NHS Commissioning Board. Although the plan is expected to save as much as 12 billion pounds by 2020, an impact assessment published with the bill suggested that the transition to the new model could cost up to 2 billion pounds depending on how many staff transition under the new system. It is currently anticipated that between 16 000 and 26 000 managerial positions will be eliminated. However, health secretary Andrew Lansley argued that savings from the programme could be used "to pay for over 40 000 extra nurses or over 11 000 extra senior doctors," while also giving the NHS "a stable financial basis for the future."

In a letter signed by six health unions, the British Medical Association warned that "with scarce resources there is a serious danger that the focus will be on cost, not quality."

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