Privatisation row. . . Patient's charter. . .Research into private healthcare. . .Internal market reform criticised. . .Politicisation of NHS managers under fire

The Conservative Party conference in Blackpool was preoccupied with countering Labour accusations that the government planned to privatise the NHS. Prime minister John Major said: 'There will be no charges for hospital treatment, no charges for visits to the doctor, no privatisation of healthcare, neither piecemeal, nor in part, nor in whole.'

Health secretary William Waldegrave has outlined his '10 commandments' for the NHS, which will form the basis of a 'patient's charter' to be launched soon. It is expected to prevent hospitals cancelling operations on the day they are due to take place.

Regional managers in South East Thames have commissioned research which could lead to the level of private healthcare provision influencing future revenue allocations. It will examine numbers of people with private medical insurance, the number of private nursing homes and the use local people make of non-NHS hospitals. The regional health authority may adjust its weighted capitation funding formula accordingly.

GPs are expressing growing dissatisfaction with the 'steady state' of the internal market, and fear any changes next year will not reflect their needs. They say the market is not tackling long-standing problems such as waiting times and is failing to guarantee existing services.

A survey of unit general managers in the West Midlands found 90 per cent thought the internal market reforms would not solve underfunding, 'the fundamental problem of the NHS'. It also revealed that 40 per cent did not agree that the market would work in healthcare.

Former King's Fund College director Gordon Best has criticised the politicisation of NHS managers. 'Ministers expect a flow of good news.

Five to 10 years ago that would have been unthinkable.

That is not what managers do, ' he said.