Nick Clegg to claim NHS changes victory for Lib Dems

Lib Dems are NHS change 'safety valve'

Deputy PM Nick Clegg is expected to claim the Lib Dems have got their way in coalition battles over a planned shake-up of the NHS in England.

Prime Minister David Cameron will give the results of a listening exercise on the controversial plans on Monday.

He has already signalled key concessions including allowing doctors to take control of commissioning.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the listening exercise had "exceeded" his expectations.

Mr Clegg is expected to tell his MPs: "We have achieved all we set out to achieve. It's a job well done."

At a meeting of his Parliamentary party on Monday, the Lib Dem leader will present a scorecard of changes to the Health and Social Care Bill demanded by his party's spring conference in March.

Key demands

Eleven of the 13 demands - including improving democratic accountability and preventing private firms "cherry picking" profitable services - have been secured, he will say, while alternative solutions have been found to meet the remaining two concerns.

The key demands include allowing hospital doctors and nurses to take control of commissioning services as well as GPs, and scrapping the 2013 deadline for consortia to start work.

On Monday, the government will publish a report by the Future Forum, the group of health professionals headed by Dr Steve Field, the former president of the Royal College of GPs, before outlining its response later in the week.

It will publish a series of amendments to the bill a week later and still hopes to get the legislation on to the statute books by the middle of July, when Parliament goes into recess for the summer.

Government wasting £2bn on health changes says John Healey

But much may depend on the scale of any rebellion by Conservative backbenchers who feel too much ground has been given to the Lib Dems and are angry about the way the health secretary appears to have been sidelined.

Mr Cameron is expected to hold a meeting with his MPs in Westminster on Monday afternoon to explain why he believes major changes to the bill are needed.

Mr Clegg's chief political adviser, Norman Lamb, who threatened to quit if he was not happy with the changes to the bill, said: "I am satisfied. I think the concerns raised have been met. It's been a very constructive process."

Start Quote

My fear is that we'll hear the prime minister claim these are substantial and significant changes”

End Quote Jon Healey Shadow health secretary

He denied the Lib Dems were in danger of making too much of the policy concessions they had achieved.

"This is not a case of triumphalism. This is a case of improving the policy," he told BBC One's Politics Show.

"I think actually this is a good demonstration of why the Lib Dems are currently in government. We can be effective in government achieving changes and acting as a sort of safety valve."

The MP also praised Mr Lansley for accepting changes to the reform package he had championed.

The health secretary said he looked forward to the report from the NHS Future Forum after what he said had been an "intensive period of engagement" in recent weeks.

"The listening exercise has exceeded my expectations, especially in terms of engagement with NHS staff," said Mr Lansley.

He went on: "The Forum has been an invaluable source of expert advice and I have said that we must keep listening, to deliver a world class health service for patients."

'Lib Dem spin'

Labour has indicated it will be voting against the bill, whatever the changes to it are.

Shadow Health Secretary Jon Healey told the Politics Show claims the bill would be substantially changed were "heavy with Lib Dem spin".

He told the programme: "My fear is that we'll hear the prime minister claim these are substantial and significant changes, but the long-term ideological plan to turn the NHS into a market, to open up all parts of the NHS to private companies will remain.

"And I think the test will be not whether the Lib Dems back Cameron but whether his own Tory backbenchers back Cameron on the bill in the future."

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