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".


More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    The NHS is not in a mess as Andrew (370) says. However, if this bill goes through, it soon will be in a terrible mess. The NHS is a generally good service and is actually very good value for money. The NHS had record levels of satisfaction under the last government. Of course, there is always room for improvement . This bill will not improve things but will destroy our NHS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    The thing I hate most about the NHS is how some people hero worship it like it's some sort of god.

    If you have that sort of mentality you are never able to accept change and understand that sometimes change is needed.

    I use the NHS myself and I believe it is a useful public service, but I refuse t become emotionally attached to it, and I refuse to use stronger language to describe it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    These changes represent a massively expensive and reckless gamble with the Health Service. There are private companies queuing up to get their hands on the NHS for one reason and one reason only. Anyone who thinks this will change the NHS for the better needs to seriously look again at the contents of the Bill.

  • 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 175.

    . . . who is best placed to know what his patient needs? The GP! Who is best placed to know which hospital/provider provides the best service to his patient? The GP! Who is best placed to know to which consultant to refer his patient? The GP!
    So why not give the GP the power and the cash to pay for the above? Oh, sorry, that's what the bill is doing.


Comments 5 of 10


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.