British Prime Minister Tony Blair today formally inducted 11 private healthcare providers into the public NHS system thereby taking a further step towards increasing competition in the health sector. Mr Blair and the health secretary, Patricia Hewitt, welcomed the new members at a summit held at Downing Street to mark the launch of NHS Partners Network.
The partners signed a document pledging to work as partners towards 'future success' of the NHS. "Wherever people are treated - in a traditional hospital, an independent hospital, a new treatment centre or in the community - it is the protection afforded to them of tax-funded healthcare, according to need and not ability to pay, which makes them NHS patients,' the document said. 'We believe there is a growing consensus that it is the standard of diagnosis and treatment provided to the individual NHS patient that really matters, not the type of ownership of any particular institution making that provision.' The document signifies what Blair says is NHS family. A spokesman for the Prime Minister gave the details of the scheme, 'When ISTCs were established many said they would be the end of the NHS as we know it. In reality they have been integral to the NHS delivering the public's priorities of shorter waiting and improved choice in a health service free at the point of use based on need not ability to pay," he said.