Simon Hughes: Andrew Lansley should go after NHS change


Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes suggested Andrew Lansley should go after NHS reforms

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley should "move on" from his role after NHS reforms in England are completed, Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes says.

The prime minister has backed Mr Lansley, amid reports three Tory ministers privately attacked his handling of the issue.

Mr Hughes said the Bill would be better after changes made in the Lords, but still not what "we would have wanted".

Labour says the PM has put "political pride" before the NHS's best interests.

The Health and Social Care Bill aims to overhaul the way the NHS in England works, giving GPs more control of the NHS budget and boost the private sector's role.

Bodies such as the British Medical Association and Royal College of Nursing remain opposed to the reforms, despite concessions from ministers.

While giving GPs a bigger say has been welcomed by some, the competition element remains deeply controversial.

'Not wanted'

Mr Hughes, a senior Lib Dem who remains outside government, said amendments demanded by the House of Lords could get the bill "in better shape".

But it was still "not the Bill we would have wanted", he said.

A controversial bill

  • The Health and Social Care Bill is one of the flagship pieces of legislation from the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government
  • GPs and other clinicians are to be given much more responsibility for NHS spending in England and greater competition with the private sector encouraged
  • The plans were put on hold last spring after opposition from MPs and peers. Labour warned of privatisation at the expense of patient care.
  • After a "listening exercise" some changes were made and the revised bill cleared its next Commons stage
  • But when the bill was in the Lords before Christmas it faced mounting opposition and the royal colleges of nurses and midwives joined those who opposed the bill outright
  • Labour are calling for the bill to be dropped, but a series of fresh amendments have been put forward aimed at tackling critics' concerns

Asked about Mr Lansley's position, Mr Hughes told BBC1's Andrew Marr show it might be for the best if he changed roles - but only after the reforms were in place.

"My political judgment is that in the second half of the parliament it would be better to move on," he said.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham vowed to give Mr Cameron the "fight of his life" unless he toned down the bill.

"Mr Cameron is making a grave mistake by saying he is going to force it on to the statute book," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr show.

Mr Burnham said he believed the bill - said to be proposing the biggest shake-up since the founding of the NHS in 1948 - would not be passed.

He said he was not against change but that the "back-room reforms" were a distraction from what the health service needed.

"We've argued all along that the government made a catastrophic mistake when it combined the biggest financial challenge in the history of the NHS with the biggest ever reorganisation."

'No alternative'

His comments came after Mr Cameron accused Labour of opportunism over the issue.

The prime minister also said he "was at one" with his health secretary and there was no alternative to the changes going through Parliament.

"Choice, competition and transparency may unsettle some people," he wrote in a comment piece in the Sunday Times.

The Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham: PM putting political pride ahead of best interests of NHS

"But it's these things at the heart of our reform that will lead to the better NHS I care about and our country deserves."

His intervention followed the report of three of his party's cabinet ministers criticising Mr Lansley's handing of the bill, which applies to England.

And writing in the Mail on Sunday, Conservative backbencher Nadine Dorries also criticised the prime minister's approach.

"It is clear that Cameron wants to kill his own NHS bill - and Lansley's career with it."

But Communities Secretary Eric Pickles told BBC1's Sunday Politics: "I am not aware of any cabinet minister that has expressed reservations about the reforms."

Mr Pickles dismissed backbenchers' concerns that the reforms could cost the Conservatives a majority at the next general election, saying the party must "do the right thing".

And Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt supported Mr Lansley, saying he believed he would eventually be seen "as the architect of the modern NHS".

Mr Hunt told the BBC Mr Lansley was the right person for the job and that it was wrong to judge someone who was "in the eye of the storm".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    218/228 You have to take Ex-Tory with a pitch of salt though. He likes to pretend to be balanced but its really a died in the wool Socialist and prefers news coverage/comment posts to support his world view so he can write smug replies. Everyone knows the Beeb is wildly left wing biased, very unfair but if Socialists can't waste other people's money who can?

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    225.Rebecca Riot
    Completely off topic Labour spin " Doh - say it enough times and people will believe it!"
    Why don't you enlighten us with Labour Party current policy to prevent the NHS imploding due to future budget requirements?
    ??....Mmmm possibly because they don't have one - what did Burnham say he's not against reform but doesn't think it shoudl be reformed now?? Clear and decisive - NOT!

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    As the Kings Fund advised, the NHS needs more accountable managers, not less, to allow doctors and nurses to do their jobs. It needs leadership not a Health Secretary who tries to duck his responsibilities. The NHS needs well planned restructuring for the future, not this badly thought out shambles. The worst thing is that Lansley had years to do the research. Madness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    I really do think that Dave should stick to promoting King James Bible & making ageist jokes about Dennis Skinner. We have had sexism as well! I am waiting for his racist jibe next? It can't be long in coming? Posh Public School Boys cannot stop themselves !!

    Dave & the Tory cronies are so unlike the UK majority, that I wince every time he appears & hear him speak. Wherever were they hatched??

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    Never has there been a health care bill so opposed by healthcare professionals, including GP's. The ConDem alliance must be out of it's mind to keep pushing Lansley's pet project which is little short of privatisation of the NHS, something this country absolutely doesn't want. When it comes to the NHS, only Labour can be trusted in Parliament to deliver the goods for all, regardless of income.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    Merkin muffley (175)
    . . . who is best placed to know what his patient needs? The GP!

    The reality is that that healthcare is purchased, priced and sold in the NHS by managers. Switching that to GPs just means the trusts making their managers redundant and the GPs hiring them. I don't want my GP sitting in meetings with medical salesmen. I want him in his surgery helping me get well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    In all the endless politicing about the NHS we are losing sight of the core issue. What is best for the health of the UK citizen? Its time to take stock: look at and learn from other countries (many with a far better health record than the UK). If we discover better and perhaps less expensive ways than the UK model then lets stop being so blindly protective of the sacred cow that is 'The NHS'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    The Tories selling and destroying the UK (again), for the profit of their friends.
    Doesn't it worry Tory voters that our water is largely owned by the Chinese tax-payer? The Tories sold our water, like they do everything else, only for the worlds most economically clued-in country to buy it!

    25% of the UK will be without healthcare if the Tories get their way, even the US now envies the NHS

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    # 228
    You do remember that you couldn't get elected without the help of a fiercely pro EU, anti tax avoidance, anti Trident party don't you? Same one that Vince Cable's in - you know the anti Murdoch pro Mansion tax chap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    I really am fed up with the NHS being a political football. Each successive government meddling with things they know little or nothing about with the aim of getting more votes. Doctors, nurses and experts get demoralised and do amazing work despite policy rather than because of it. The next bunch (and all those after) will make further 'improvements' instead of doing what is right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Same bungling botch Burnham responsible for the New Labour 'cover up' by way of a report from the investigation at Stafford Hospital. Very little in the NHS could ever get as bad as that & all on his watch. Bungle Botch Burham makes out NHS under serious threat here as is scaremongering as most NHS spending is already made to '3rd parties' on PFI, drugs, services, eqpmt - Bucket pl. - I feel sick

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.


    There's little connection between people voicing opinions on HYS and opinion polls. I, and I feel sure a number of other regulars, support no party. Unless opinion polls have "None Of The Above" (not the same as 'Don't Know') I for one could not take part, but I suspect many simply say whatever party come into their head - the lesser of three evils as they see it. That is not support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Prior to the general election we were promised no more top down reorganisation of the NHS what did we get as soon as the coalition took power, yes, more top down reorganisation of the NHS, which Lansley and the Tories had been planning for years. We were lied to then and we are being lied to now. Make no mistake, this bill is all about opening the NHS up to the markets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    #229 Assynt. Your experience of GPs sounds poor. It is rare. Most GPs work hard saving UK PLC money & protect your taxes from being wasted. Drs r still the most trusted profession!

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    I don't want "choice", I want the best possible service provided by public workers. The NHS should remain a public service that puts people before profits. A privatised health service will put us on the road to the horrendous inequalities that people in the US put up with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    I have noticed the line from Tory Spokesmen is to accuse Labour of Political Opportunism. Apart from the hypocrisy of this coming from a party led by Air Brushed spin meister call me Dave.
    It is not opportunism to reflect the opinion of the vast majority of Doctors,Nurses,Patients, many of whom are actually Conservative Supporters and who all resoundingly reject the need for this dismal bill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    GP's need to be free to concentrate on patients health issues, not to have responsibility for the purse strings which inevitably will lead to a conflict of interests including intense pressure from private providers to put 'business' in their direction.
    Privatisation of the NHS will irrevocably follow leading to a two tier system where the rich get well and the poor return to the pre NHS era.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    It doesn't matter which political party you support, if you think that this Bill is wrong, do something about it. Dave knows he faces huge opposition on this so rub salt in the wound. Use his marvellous E-Petion site.
    Kill the Bill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    The NHS is and will be our national institution for all who are weak and poor. We do not need any more service providers private or semi private to tell the nation what is value for money. Hard working taxpayers are paying for the National Insurance Contribution. Everyone deserves the best treatment for their NIC. Where is BUPA now? DC get your act together? What is your problem with the NHS?

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    There are many who claim that the NHS offers tremendous value, the envy of the world and are staffed by the best health professionals.
    Personally I have not seen my GP for about 15 years - a string of barely comprehensible foreign locums - who diagnose via the internet - yes! No GP's in my area offer out of hours or home visits - but the UK's 40200 GMS and PMS GP's earn an ave. > £100k!! Value??


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