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Daily View: Will proposed NHS changes go ahead?

Clare Spencer | 11:22 UK time, Monday, 4 April 2011

Commentators discuss how politicians are managing potential changes in the NHS:

MC NxtGen, who the Guardian reports is a bin man from Loughborough, has released a song on YouTube called Andrew Lansley Rap criticising proposed changes in the NHS. The chorus finishes with: "The NHS is not for sale you grey-haired, manky codger." And then a verse goes on to criticise Andrew Lansley's white paper which proposes changes to the way the NHS is run:

"So the budget of the PCTs,
"He wants to hand to the GPs, Oh please.
"Dumb geeks are gonna buy from any willing provider,
"Get care from private companies...

"We'll become more like the US,
"And care will be farmed out to private companies,
"Who will sell their service to the NHS via the GPs,
"Who will have more to do with service purchase arrangements,
"Than anything to do with seeing their patients."

The Telegraph's Martin Beckford says that MC NxtGen's rap was based on an excerpt of an interview in which Mr Lansley "scoffed at the opinion of The Lancet, one of the world's most respected medical journals". Mr Beckford predicts David Cameron faces a "humiliating" U-turn on the issue:

"Some Conservatives say ruefully that the most important changes could have been made without primary legislation, and that the tortured introduction of the Health and Social Care Bill has just handed the initiative to opponents. As it is, Mr Cameron faces a humiliating U-turn on an issue on which his reputation rests, or pushing on with a Bill that enjoys scarcely any support among the people who will have to implement it.

"Although the British Medical Association has rowed back from outright opposition to the Bill and the threat of industrial action, the impact of public protests against the Government's spending cuts has clearly been noted by the most vocal opponents of health reform."

Conservative Lord Norman Tebbit expresses concern in the Mirror about privatisation of the NHS:

"What worries me about the reforms however is the difficulty of organising fair competition between the state-owned hospitals and those in the private sector.

"In my time I have seen many efforts to create competition between state-owned airlines, car factories and steel makers. They all came unstuck. The unfairnesses were not all one way and they spring from the fact that state-owned and financed businesses and private sector ones are different animals."

James Forsyth suggests in the Daily Mail that Andrew Lansley also needs to explain his changes in a way the electorate will understand:

"Lansley's main problem is that hardly anyone understands what he is trying to do. As one colleague laments: 'Andrew knows everything but can't explain it in three simple sentences. And if you can't do that in modern politics, you're in real trouble.'"

The Financial Times editorial defends the changes. It agrees that Mr Lansley has done a "lousy" job of explaining the changes and argues that this has encouraged the spread of a misunderstanding that the government's reforms spell the end of the NHS:

"That is nonsense. Funding and charging do not change under the reforms. There will be a bigger role for the voluntary and private sectors, but not any time soon a large one and maybe never if the public sector responds to choice and competition. Moreover, the duty of the economic regulator is to promote competition only 'where appropriate'. None of this represents wholesale privatisation of the NHS on either the demand or the supply side. Much of it builds on what Tony Blair, Labour's former prime minister, was working on."

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