Labour NHS split emerges

Contrasting visions for the future of the NHS are being prepared by Gordon Brown and ministers loyal to Tony Blair.

Mr Brown is considering plans to create an independent control board that will keep ministers at “arms length” in controlling the running of the health service during this week’s party conference.

MP’s roles will be limited to setting objectives for the running of the health service and assigning a budget.

Meanwhile Labour ministers, including health minister Andy Burnham and pensions reform minister James Purnell, are due to announce a number of new proposals for the NHS at Sunday’s Labour party conference.

They will include a proposal for the creation of an NHS constitution, similar to the BBC charter, to tackle the “challenge” of decision making within the NHS and make the health service more publicly accountable.

Speaking on the NHS charter proposal, Mr Purnell said: “By publicly enshrining the basic principles that underpin the NHS, such a constitution could provide reassurance for those worried change might go too far.

“If public services are accountable to users, they no longer need to be accountable in detail to central government, meaning fewer targets imposed from the centre, less emphasis on command and control.”

The proposed changes to the NHS are part of a plan by Labour to increase public confidence by relinquishing the government’s direct control over public services, political commentators have claimed.

It is unclear whether Mr Brown plans to announce his own proposal at this weekend’s Labour conference. Reports suggest that his proposal for an independent NHS board is currently being examined by health experts.