Lansley says NHS plans will not be derailed
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has suggested it is full steam ahead for his NHS reforms in England - despite mounting criticisms.
Unions have raised concerns in the past week about the overhaul, which will see GPs given control of NHS purse strings.
The British Medical Association, Unison and Royal College of Nursing questioned the pace and scale of change.
But in a speech to the Conservative Party conference, Mr Lansley said he would not let his reforms be derailed.
He opened his address by comparing his quick action - he published a plan two months after becoming health secretary - to Labour's approach.
He said it took Labour ministers three years to publish their vision - the NHS Plan which was set out in 2000.
"We want people to be clear, this is a government that is serious about real reform."
And despite the concerns of the unions, he said he would push ahead with his plans once the consultation ends later this month.
"We will not delay in taking action that is necessary."
The white paper, published in July, set out plans to create GP consortiums to take over the running of the health service from local managers.
It said pilots should be in place by the end of this financial year, before full roll out by 2013.
Unions have said the nature of the overhaul - 10 strategic health authorities and 151 primary care trusts are to be abolished - could threaten the savings the NHS has been told to make.
GPs, in particular, have also expressed concern the consortiums could affect the doctor-patient relationship and about the impact of the creeping commercialisation of the health service.
But Mr Lansley said the reforms would help "quality of care we expect".
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis called the overhaul a huge gamble.
He added: "It is a disgrace that Lansley is pressing ahead with his plans.
"Although he says he wants to put patients in the driving seat, these are just warm words. Lansley has not asked the public what they think, nor were these proposals in the Tory manifesto - nobody voted for them."
Meanwhile, Mr Lansley also announced the government was asking hospitals to formally monitor E. coli and MSSA infections.
Both are already recorded on a voluntary basis with figures showing they have been rising in recent years.
The health secretary said he was keen to monitor what the source of these infections were - most will be contracted in the community but using hospital recording is seen as the best way of identifying trends.