This was in line with their increasing policy focus on issues of socioeconomic inequality that had progressively increasingly worsened over the years following the rapid, albeit lopsided, economic growth in the earlier half of the decade and the unequal distribution of wealth and resources that it had resulted into.
Also, in 2005, because of the growing public concern over the severe capacity shortfalls being experienced in the healthcare sector, the government pledged to gradually increase its healthcare spending over the next five years with the proposed aim to draw level with the averages being reported in the rest of the European continent.
Under the proposed policy initiatives, healthcare and social services budgets were unified and were subsequently devolved to 304 PCTs (Primary Care Trusts) with provision for a greater degree of autonomy for hospitals operating across the country, new need-based formulas were used to determine the allocation of NHS funds to different regions, patients were given greater freedom in the choice of their hospital, and National Service Frameworks were introduced to shift the emphasis to quality and equality of healthcare options. However, as per Wheeler, Shaw, Mitchell and Dorling, (2005), despite the above-stated positive initiatives, the government shied away from addressing the underlying issue of wealth inequalities that had led to further disparities in the country’s healthcare structure.
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