Controversial shake up of NHS called for

Former NHS chief Lord Crisp hints that too many hospital building projects were carried out under Labour

Hospitals should be closed so the NHS in England can switch resources to the long-term care of the burgeoning numbers of older people in the community, the former chief executive of the health service Lord Crisp has said.

He would not put a figure on closures, but implied that too many new hospital building projects might have been carried out when Labour was in office and he was the NHS head.

Crisp, who was chief executive from 2000 to 2006, told the BBC news website: “In the late 1990s waiting lists, A&E and standards in cardiac care were the big issues and we dealt with them.

“But the challenge now is dealing with the numbers of older people and those with long-term conditions. They need supporting in the community.

“That means a shift away from hospitals. There will be less need for large hospital outpatient departments and some services and whole hospitals will need to close or be merged with others.”

Crisp, who made similar remarks later on the BBC’s Today programme, added: “By 2005 there was no hospital that was not thinking it was going to grow. We had major problems with very bad facilities, [but] perhaps we could have built smaller or consolidated on fewer sites.

“We missed that opportunity and this government needs to grasp that. We can’t keep services going just because there is a nice building.”

Crisp’s book on his time leading the NHS during the Tony Blair years, 24 Hours to Save the NHS, will be published this month.

The Department of Health told the BBC that ministers agreed with the principle that more care should be moved into the community, but added that changes must be made for the right reasons. Labour said patients had benefited from its investment and reforms during its time in office.

Crisp’s successor, Sir David Nicholson, has already said the NHS should reduce the number of acute beds and that politicians would have to sell such changes to the public.

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