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Howard: My Government will focus on public health

Speech at Conservative Campaign Headquarters

"In 2002 Mr Blair said that if "the NHS is not basically fixed by the next election then I'm quite happy to suffer the consequences".

Just consider these three facts. Average waiting times have increased. The number of cancelled operations has increased. Rates of the MRSA super bug have doubled - you now have more chance of dying from a superbug you picked up in hospital than being killed on Britain's roads.

And all this is happening today, at the beginning of the twenty first century, in Britain - the fourth largest economy in the world. It's not good enough. People deserve better.

I don't believe that the NHS is "basically fixed" - and nor do most other people. The truth is that Mr Blair's Government has spent millions of pounds on the NHS and wasted much of it on bureaucracy. There are now more bureaucrats than GPs in Primary Care Trusts - and for every doctor or nurse recruited, three more bureaucrats are taken on.

That's why families like Margaret Dixon's, and thousands of others, families who've worked hard all their lives and paid their dues, aren't getting value for money.

I'm proud of the NHS - proud of the fact that in Britain we have health care free at the point of use. My family and I have always used the NHS. But I believe it could be so much better if only we trusted the doctors and nurses who work in it

That's why the Government I lead will scrap the Whitehall targets which so badly distort clinical priorities. A Conservative Government will trust doctors and nurses to exercise their judgement - local professionals not bureaucrats should run our hospitals.

We'll spend more on the NHS - because we need to invest to get a world class health service. And by cutting bureaucracy like Strategic Health Authorities we will ensure that the money actually gets to the frontline.

And we'll give matron the power to close wards and operating theatres infected with the super bug. Matron will be in charge, accountable to doctors and to patients for cleanliness in our hospitals - that's the way to tackle the super bug, not more targets and Whitehall interference.

The Government I lead will also focus on public health - however difficult or sensitive the issue. As I said in my first speech in this job there will be no policy no go areas for the Conservative Party. If something is tough but true I will always say it.

Public health is important - it affects every family in our country. That's why a Conservative Government will introduce health checks for people wanting to settle here - so that we don't import life threatening diseases into our country.

And we'll take action to tackle sexually transmitted diseases. Mr Blair may not think that sexual health is a national priority - but I do. It's not an issue that can or should be swept under the carpet - it should be tackled directly.

It is no exaggeration to say that in Britain today we face a sexually transmitted diseases epidemic. Gonorrhea has doubled. Chlamydia has doubled. HIV has more than doubled. We have the worst rates of sexual health since records began.

And today's sexually transmitted diseases are tomorrow's NHS bills. Chlamydia alone will cost the NHS almost £10 million a year in infertility treatment. And if we don't take action today the problem is only going to get worse.

I've met people who tell me they are alive today because of the AIDS campaign of the 1980s - a bold, high profile campaign which made some people uncomfortable but which taught the majority of people how to protect themselves from HIV.

It's time for a clear, bold and very public health campaign on diseases like Chlamydia, which can literally ruin women's lives. Young women need to know the risks involved and the precautions they can take - even if that makes some people uncomfortable. And by public I mean television.

Today is International Women's Day. But this isn't just an issue for young women.

It's a worry for parents and grandparents too. No-one wants their children or grand children to suffer the heartbreak of infertility. Everyone wants our children to have the chance of a better life than their parents.

So, people will face a clear choice at the next election: more talk from Mr Blair or a Conservative Government that will tackle important but sensitive issues like sexually transmitted diseases."

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