Published: 16/01/2003, Volume II3, No. 5838 Page 5

Primary care trusts must succeed if public support for increased NHS funding is to be sustained, prime minister Tony Blair told delegates at the national primary care collaborative conference in London on Tuesday.

In a surprise 15-minute speech, Mr Blair said PCTs prepared to embrace change would play a key role in getting 'a deeper and more considered... consent from the public about future funding'. He said the public would not consent to change if people did not see a better and more customer-focused service as a result.

In an echo of leaked comments by Michael Barber, head of the Downing Street delivery unit, about the 'immense risks' facing the government if it did not meet promises on health, Mr Blair used the word 'immense' three times in his concluding remarks, referring to the task facing both the centre and the service. And he said he wanted to see PCTs getting increasing 'discretionary power to pioneer improvements' at a local level.

'I know that in the centre we do not get everything right but we do want to work with you and take your work out to the public and show them we are resolving problems where they occur.'