We’re here today to talk about the NHS and its future.
What our reforms mean, why we’re doing them and how we want to involve NHS professionals in making them work.
Before we get into the detail I want to say this.
I believe passionately in the NHS.
And for me - I make no apologies about this - this is a very personal thing.
I know what it is to rely on our health service, to put the people you love in the hands of our brilliant doctors and nurses, to arrive at a hospital in the middle of the night and know there will be people there to help.
We all know why the NHS is our most precious national asset.
It’s because in this country we don’t take our credit cards along to A & E.
We don’t have the poorest dying of treatable diseases because they can’t afford medical insurance.
No. We have an institution - a precious idea - that says we are in this together.
So let me say this again: I am in politics not to take risks with the NHS, not to threaten the NHS, but to safeguard and improve the NHS.
Now to some people this might beg a question: if you love the NHS so much, why are you so determined to change it?
There are two big reasons why we need change.
The first is about how the NHS is doing today.
We enjoy healthcare in Britain that is the envy of billions around the world.
But if our NHS was performing at truly world-class levels, we could save literally hundreds more lives every week.
It’s estimated we would save an extra 5000 lives from cancer every year.
An extra 2000 lives from respiratory disease every year.
These facts alone compel us to modernise and improve our NHS.
And the second reason we need change is not about what’s happening today but what’s coming up tomorrow.
Every hour more than 25,000 people walk through the doors of a surgery or hospital to get treated and with our population ageing, those numbers are set to rise dramatically.
Already the cost of advances in treatments and medicines alone put around £600 million of extra funding pressure on the NHS every year - and those costs are set to rise too.
Taken together these pressures threaten a squeeze on NHS resources down the line.
So if we want to keep a health service that is truly free at the point of use, not just this year and next year but in the decades to come, then we have got to make the NHS more effective.
Pumping in a bit more money and sticking with the status quo just isn’t going to cut it.
So no change is not an option and this coalition has set out what we believe the change should be.
Shifting money from the back-room to the frontline.
Passing decision-making power from bureaucrats to doctors and nurses.
Giving patients more choice over where they get treated.
And already these changes are having a positive effect.
In under a year the number of managers in the NHS has fallen by 3000.
The number of doctors has increased by 2500.
Thousands of people are able to access life-saving drugs thanks to a new cancer drugs fund.
So we are making progress.
But we also recognise that there are some big questions about what we’re doing.
Doctors and nurses are asking what our plans will mean for them.
We hear that - and we want to work with you, not against you.
Now that the Health and Social Care Bill has passed through committee stage in the House of Commons, we’ve got a natural break before this legislation reaches its final stages in Parliament.
We’re taking this time to pause, listen, reflect on and improve our NHS modernisation plans.
Let me be clear: this is a genuine chance to make a difference.
Where there are good suggestions to improve the legislation, those changes will be made.
But let me be equally clear: the status quo is not OK.
Modernisation is not just a good idea to save money and build a better health service it is essential to a strong future for the NHS.
I believe passionately in the changes we have set out - but I also know we need the people who work in our NHS to get on board.
We will listen and make any necessary changes.
So this is my message to you today: let’s work together for a stronger NHS.