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UK ministers reaffirm commitment to NHS principles

4 July 2008

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All four UK health ministers, from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, yesterday (3 July 2008) reaffirmed their commitment to the core principles on which the NHS was founded, by issuing a Statement of Common Principles.

The statement, timed to coincide with the 60th birthday of the NHS tomorrow (5 July 2008), affirmed that:

  • The NHS provides a comprehensive service, available to all.
  • Access to its services is based on clinical need, not an individual’s ability to pay.
  • The NHS aspires to high standards of excellence and professionalism.
  • NHS services must reflect the needs and preferences of patients, their families and their carers.
  • The NHS works across organisational boundaries with other organisations in the interests of patients, communities and the wider population.
  • The NHS is committed to providing the best value for taxpayers’ money, making the most effective and fair use of finite resources.
  • The NHS is accountable to the public, communities and patients that it serves.

Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson, said: “The NHS belongs to everyone in the UK – to the people of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Today, the NHS sees or treats a million people every 36 hours, eight out of 10 people see their GP every year and a million more operations are performed than just 10 years ago.

“The NHS is there to improve our health, supporting us when we are ill and when we cannot fully recover, to look after us and make us as comfortable as possible. It is committed to tackling health inequalities, providing services to meet patient need and providing the highest quality clinical and parochial care.

“In this 60th anniversary week, it is fitting that all four administrations in the UK restate their commitment to the core founding principles of the NHS which still endure today.”

Nicola Sturgeon, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Scottish Government, said: “Devolution has brought different approaches to the NHS in the four nations that make up the United Kingdom and this is resulting in an unquestionable divergence between our health systems.

“Nevertheless, this statement on our shared principles highlights a resolve to ensure that the NHS remains free at the point of delivery and continues to strive for the highest possible standards in clinical excellence and patient care.

“I welcome the commitment by the UK and devolved administrations to uphold the basic tenets of the NHS in our respective countries and express my hope that together we can remain true to its founders’ vision.”

Health, Social Services and Public Safety Minister for Northern Ireland, Michael McGimpsey, said: “In this year, the 60th anniversary of the NHS, we have already seen immense change.

“Sixty years on however, Northern Ireland still faces many challenges that must be addressed. Health inequalities are still rife, with those living in deprived areas more likely to suffer ill health, and an earlier death. We also have increasing rates of suicide, teenage pregnancy, obesity, smoking related deaths and binge drinking.

“I welcome the opportunity to voice my commitment, alongside my colleagues from across the UK, to the founding principles of the NHS. As we look forward to the next 60 years of the NHS we must never forget to put patients first and ensure they are always at the heart of our thinking.”

Edwina Hart, Minister for Health and Social Services, Welsh Assembly Government, said: ” I’m delighted to reaffirm my commitment to the founding principles of the NHS. I am proud of Wales’ strong historic links to the creation of the health service and that the NHS in Wales remains committed to delivering on Bevan’s founding principles every single day.

“I want too, to pay tribute to the staff, who work tirelessly and have embraced dramatic change since it was born 60 years ago.
“Like anything in life, the NHS is not perfect, and may never be perfect, but we are privileged in the UK to have such an institution that cares for so many people each and every day, which continues to be the envy of the world.”

Department of Health

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