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Government to end top-down targets

The Government has insisted it would scrap top-down targets in the NHS as it unveiled details of the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat deal.

The Tory manifesto promised to "scrap the politically-motivated targets that have no clinical justification", but the document makes no specific mention of abandoning targets.

Instead, it says the Government will seek to measure "health results that really matter", including focusing on outcomes for patients, such as improving cancer and stroke survival rates.

But a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said targets would indeed be scrapped. She said: "We will scrap targets that have no clinical justification.

"The coalition document does not explicitly state this but it is implied by these two statements: doctors and nurses need to be able to use their professional judgment about what is right for patients and we will support this by giving front-line staff more control of their working environment; and we want to free NHS staff from political micromanagement."

Elements of promises made by the Liberal Democrats appear in the document, including ensuring a "stronger voice for patients locally" through directly elected individuals on the boards of their local health trust and a key Tory pledge - to create a new independent NHS board for day-to-day running of the health service - will be put in place.

The document also promises a commission to look at how social care is funded, suggesting it may have been difficult for the Tories and Lib Dems to firmly agree on this aspect - the Tories had backed a voluntary insurance scheme, whereas the Liberal Democrats prefer universal payments.

The rest of the document is made up of announcements already made by the Conservatives, including guaranteeing health spending increases in real terms in each year of Parliament.

Pledges to patients include choice over which GP they wish to register with and the introduction of a single urgent care number so patients with non-life threatening conditions and injuries can contact GPs, walk-in centres and pharmacy services.

A cancer drugs fund - trailed by the Tories before the election - will also be established to allow patients who have the backing of their doctors access to drugs not widely available on the NHS.

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