David Cameron backs changes to NHS plans
David Cameron has agreed to make changes to the plans for the NHS in England and insisted the government had not made “a humiliating U-turn”.
Ministers have accepted all the recommendations suggested by a panel of experts, including more controls on competition and a slower pace of change.
Doctors’ groups have broadly welcomed the revisions.
The NHS bill will now go back to the committee stage in the House of Commons to be scrutinised again by MPs before going through its House of Lords stages.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said he expected that to happen before the summer recess begins in July, and the bill to be on the statute book by the end of the current Parliamentary session.
That gives ministers until May 2012 to make it law.
On Monday – following a 10-week “listening exercise” – a panel of experts called the NHS Future Forum gave its recommendations on the changes needed to the bill.
- Reinstating the legal responsibility of the health secretary for the overall performance of the NHS
- Scrapping the primary role of the regulator, Monitor, to promote competition – and focusing on improving patient choice instead
- Relaxing the 2013 deadline for new GP commissioning arrangements to be introduced – a National Commissioning Board, based in Leeds, will control budgets until GP groups are “able and willing” to take over
- Strengthening the power of health and well-being boards, which are being set up by councils, to oversee commissioning and giving patients a greater role on them
- Retaining a lead role for GPs in decision-making, but boosting the role of other professionals such as hospital doctors and nurses alongside them
After criticism from medics and complaints from rebellious MPs, the Coalition will be hoping the dust will now settle over its NHS reforms.
If politics is the art of persuasion, then the test for Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Lansley is whether or not they have convinced people that the listening process has been, as the prime minister claimed, a sign of strength.
The government and many health professionals believe changes to the NHS are necessary to deal with the demands of the ageing population, cost of new drugs and lifestyle changes such as obesity.
Mr Cameron said those who described the reworking of the plans as “a humiliating U-turn”, or the listening exercise as “a big PR stunt”, were both wrong.
“The fundamentals of our plans – more control to patients, more power to doctors and nurses, less bureaucracy in the NHS – they are as strong today as they’ve ever been,” the PM said.
The health secretary has faced personal criticism for his inability to garner widespread support for the original bill, but the prime minister said he accepted full responsibility for what had happened.
“I am every bit as responsible as Andrew Lansley for the fact that we actually decided we could improve on what we already put forward,” Mr Cameron said.
The British Medical Association said it was pleased the government had accepted the Future Forum’s recommendations and addressed many of doctors’ concerns.
But it said more detail was needed on how commissioning of care would work in future and there must be “robust safeguards” to prevent competition of any kind destabilising the health service.
Tags: Andrew Lansley, BMA, Conservatives, David Cameron, Doctors, GPs, National Health Service, NHS, nhs cash shortages