Andrew Lansley hits back over NHS bill


Mr Lansley rejects claims he's lost the support of Conservatives over the NHS bill

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley says the government is "committed" to the NHS bill, amid reports that three Tory cabinet ministers have concerns.

Tim Montgomerie, of the grassroots ConservativeHome website, said he was prompted to write a critical editorial by the ministers' intervention.

Mr Lansley said his party was "working together" on NHS reform in England.

He denied that he personally had lost Conservative support - as Labour said the bill should be dropped.

There has been speculation about his position following continuing opposition to the bill, which applies to England, from medical professionals' groups.

'Political problem'

Asked if he would resign to get the bill through if necessary, he said: "No... we as a government are committed to supporting the NHS.

"This legislation has been supported by the House of Commons, supported by the House of Lords, the bill has been amended to take account of many changes."

What the health professionals think

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He said the changes had backing from GPs already running clinical commissioning services and local authority chief executives.

"We as a government are committed, not just to this legislation, it's not about the bill as such - it's about what the bill enables the NHS to achieve in the future."

Mr Lansley, who was heckled on a visit to Edinburgh, said he and the government believed in the NHS - but it had to be modernised to deliver "the best care in the future".

The story so far

  • The Health and Social Care Bill is one of the flagship bits of legislation from the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government
  • GPs and other clinicians will 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, peers and some health groups - 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. They start being debated in the Lords today.
  • There have been reports No 10 want to axe Health Secretary Andrew Lansley for mishandling the bill, but they have been denied and David Cameron has insisted the bill is needed to improve the NHS.

"Across the Conservative Party, in the coalition government working together, and indeed working right across the NHS, we know that the NHS matters for the people of this country."

His comments follow an editorial by Mr Montgomerie, whose website describes itself as "independent of the Conservative Party but supportive of it", that argued putting the NHS back at the centre of debate was David Cameron's biggest mistake as PM.

In an interview with the BBC, he would not name the ministers he said had contacted him with concerns.

But he said: "This is something that has come from three members of the cabinet. Over the last 48 hours I've been speaking to a lot of people inside the Conservative machine, inside the Conservative team and there's huge concern about the NHS bill."

He said the NHS was going to have difficult years ahead, because of tight spending but the risk was now that every problem would now be "blamed on the bill".

The Health and Social Care Bill introduces the biggest shake-up since the founding of the NHS in 1948, putting GPs in control of much of its budget and encouraging greater competition with the private sector.

The government has put forward 136 amendments in recent days - in a bid to head off a rebellion by Lib Dem peers as it goes through the House of Lords.

Tim Montgomerie said he could not find a senior Tory who thought the NHS plans had been handled well

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said there had been a debate within the coalition about whether the bill was necessary for some of the changes to be implemented.

Earlier Health Minister Simon Burns dismissed the reported opposition of three Conservative cabinet ministers as "tittle-tattle" and said modernising the NHS was more important than "the noises off".

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said he was "certainly not" one of the three unnamed ministers, adding: "I don't believe there are three doubters. I believe that the cabinet is behind the health secretary."

But Lib Dem MP John Pugh - who has criticised the bill - told BBC Radio 4's World at One that the ConservativeHome report "chimes entirely with what I myself have learned in conversations with Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the last few days".

And Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "Nurses, doctors and patients have been telling David Cameron for months that he's on the wrong track on the NHS and now even members of his cabinet are as well."

He said the prime minister was "out of touch" for sticking with the bill: "He should drop this bill, which is wasting billions of pounds on a bureaucratic re-organisation of the NHS and threatens a creeping privatisation of the National Health Service."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 491.

    Perhaps the privatisation has already started, through successive governments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    These tories simply want no state provided services at all! It's barely even thinly veiled thesedays. The bankers actually did them a favour by giving them a mandate to make these cuts. OFFA doesn't work in HE, OFCOM doesn't work in telecoms and Monitor will fail in Health. Markets bring about efficient allocation of resorces but are almost always socially sub-optimal. It's shameful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    I am a nurse & have worked in the NHS for over 30 years,these propsed changes will destroy the service with have. For those who knock it-when it's gone, you will realise to late what has been lost.This bill allows private companies to make money out of missery. Private healthcare hip replacement=nice food, cake, no physiotherapy/aftercare, NHS Physio/occupational therapy, planned aftercare,no cake

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    It would be interesting to see Patients who are refused treatment by a PCT now seeing their GP who commissions services and has to explain to their patient why they have refused to pay for treatment. Is this why doctoreff is against the reforms ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.

    # 468 said: I am also a GP ... If PCTs were made to listen to clinicians, and they had been made to get Professional Executive Committees sign off, and the PECs had to be constituted by a number of GP representatives and hospital consultants with special committees to develop pathways we could have achieved the same result.

    Whaaat?! Is this a spoof? If not, proof postive of the need for reform

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    Tories fundamentally like the idea of competition because
    they believe private sector can do better than the gov.

    Then when I look at the people in charge's decisions in cabinet you can
    see why they believe they aren't fit to be running it.

    This government only likes one form of "cheques and (bank) balances"

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    Until the little England focus groups tells them their political dogma over the NHS has lost them "The NHS Is Safe In Our Hands" Vote these people will do nothing to alter the course of the back door privatisation too many promises have been made on their holidays with the Teabaggers in the USA who controle the private health consortium who are in line to reap the cash.

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    Cameron must know that the tide has turned against him."

    Probably. But a cynic might suggest he'd then encounter a really damaging problem - there's a lot of party donors and lobbyists who be wanting a re-fund.

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    Publish the Risk Register and let the people make an informed decision! How can anyone possibly trust you when you refuse to allow this vital document to be read? It utterly smacks of burying evidence which doesn't back up your standpoint, unelected coalition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    475. farkyss
    "Go to a different GP."
    Sorry, that was 3 different GPs. The first one mentioned was not only GP but worked alongside me (at least part-time) in local hospital. Her reward for contributing to the destruction of my health, and that of family & friends was for her and her husband and partner to be made DSS Medical Officers and then moved far away up north. They lie, and alter records.

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    Wether or not this Bill goes through his career at the top is done for, he's handled the process so badly. He'll be the first to go come the next major reshuffle.

    This Bill's stated aim is to improve efficiency.....yet what it actually does is add MORE layers of bureaucracy whilst simultaniously confusing the hirerarchy......just drop the Bill, for all our sakes.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    DC can still extricate himself from this farce by focusing on Lansleys failings and removing the man from his position. Then common sense can prevail and we can improve the NHS with the input of those in the know rather than those out to make a few quid. Cameron must know that the tide has turned against him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    Just listened to Lansley's comments and I'm still trying to waft away the aroma of ignited undergarments!

    This un-elected coalition has no mandate to impose these awful changes within the NHS. Neither party bothered to mention in their respective manifestos that they were hell bent on privatising our precious NHS. I'm sure the outcome of the election would have been very different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    No one seems to have asked the obvious question which is: how are the GP Consortia or CCG's going to be remunerated for taking on these additional commisioning tasks? Who is going to hold them genuinely accountable for taxpayers money that needs to be spent on patient care?

  • rate this

    Comment number 477.

    The NHS in the hands of this government terrifies me.

    It really does.

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    Not one for conspiricies. But having been found out in the financial sector are the Tory's creating a new gravy train for their pals i.e The NHS

  • rate this

    Comment number 475.

    Actually what they were interested in was to remove a tier of central beurocracy, bring local accountability, and increase the supply of services available to the public.

    Nothing wrong with this, everyone agrees, there are just ideological objections to how it might be achieved, along with misplaced and misjudged dogma from both sides.

    470.OnTopic: Go to a different GP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 474.

    Do we really want people commisioning services to patients when they are only interested in people who are sick during office hours ? GPs are driven by money and not patients.

  • rate this

    Comment number 473.


    "I have not heard of hundreds of needless deaths happening in the private sector, have you?"

    The point is that the private sector won't cover the dangerous expensive operations.

    DC didn't have the choice to go private for his son's longterm needs.

    Botox shows deaths do happen:

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    The American system is based, as clearly stated by W.C. Fields, on the principle of 'never giving a sucker an even break.' It has led to over testing, over perscription, over consultantcy, with no measurable improvement in primary care. Yet this is the system that both Tory and Labour are desperate to introduce! Admin and legal costs are far higher in the American system - but profits are booming!


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