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What should an underfunded NHS spend its money on?

Hard decisions are being made—but more transparency will help with public opinion

By Jennifer Dixon  

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Photo: Christopher Furlong/PA Wire/PA Images

It is summer 1997. Frank Dobson, the new Secretary of State for Health, is making his first major decision about the NHS. He meets with Alan Langlands, then NHS chief executive, who spells out how bad the service’s finances are. Langlands tells Dobson bluntly that, on the money available, the NHS cannot both get through the coming winter and meet the Labour manifesto pledge of reducing waiting lists. Dobson agrees, and opts to prioritise the winter, stretching his party’s pledge…

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