A future Labour government would offer a 'new partnership' with NHS managers, shadow health secretary Robin Cook has promised. He said health authorities would have 'maximum freedom' within agreed targets to manage their affairs.'Labour's deal with NHS management will be based on a recognition that those working in the service have a good idea of what is needed, 'he said.

NHS personnel director Eric Caines has signalled that next year's pay round will seek a major shift towards local flexibility. He has made it clear to unions that both the Whitley council and the pay review body settlements would include levels of flexibility that would render the national pay-bargaining mechanisms redundant.

The Department of Health says the NHS will get a 5.3 per cent real-terms increase in spending next year as a result of the chancellor's autumn statement. But this promise assumes the GDP deflator is pegged at 6 per cent. In four out of the last five years, NHS inflation has outstripped the GDP deflator, and HAs estimate it will reach 8.6 per cent in 1991-92.

Closures of Victorian psychiatric hospitals should be pursued with 'renewed vigour', junior health minister Stephen Dorrell has said. His predecessor, Roger Freeman, urged HAs earlier this year not to close them unless adequate community facilities had become available to replace them. A poll of 100 MPs found 56 wanted to halt the planned closure of psychiatric hospitals.

One in two people are dissatisfied with the way the NHS is run - up from one in four in 1984 - according to the latest survey of British social attitudes. Most concerns centre on long waiting lists and conditions in hospitals.

Almost two-thirds wanted more NHS spending.