UK Politics

Cameron and Clegg to push case for NHS changes

Image caption Supporters say the plans will cut the level of NHS bureaucracy in England

PM David Cameron and deputy Nick Clegg are to make a renewed drive to promote planned changes to the NHS in England.

The coalition is also understood to be ready to introduce changes to the legislation when it returns to the House of Lords after May's elections.

This follows mounting disquiet that ministers have failed to convince voters that change is necessary.

Labour called the coalition's plans for the NHS, which include ending primary care trusts, a "distraction".

Ministers want to transfer much of the responsibility for buying and planning local services from the trusts to GPs working in consortia across the country.

Regional strategic health authorities are also to be phased out.

Opponents say the changes could lead to the "privatisation" of the NHS, but supporters say they will remove unnecessary bureaucracy.

'Utterly committed'

The Sunday Telegraph reports that there could be a rebellion by Liberal Democrat peers when the Health and Social Care Bill goes through the House of Lords.

BBC political correspondent Norman Smith said that, among the likely changes to the legislation, there could be measures to outlaw the "cherry picking" of profitable NHS services by private health providers.

It is also thought GPs may be given longer to form themselves into consortia running their own budgets, beyond the April 2013 deadline.

Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg will share a platform with Health Secretary Andrew Lansley to announce the latest consultation.

They are expected to set up a series of public meetings for ministers to try to explain the proposals and reassure people worried about privatisation "by the back door" and a lack of accountability.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The government is utterly committed to the NHS and its principles. We are also committed to modernising the NHS. Progress on the ground continues to be impressive.

"The speculation is ill-informed and filled with inaccuracies. The bill has now successfully finished committee stage in the Commons and there is a natural break before it moves to the Lords.

"We have always been prepared to listen, having already clarified that there is no question of privatisation and that competition will be based on quality, and will continue to do so."

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Media captionCaroline Flint accused the government of incompetence and failures in plans for NHS changes in England

For Labour, shadow communities secretary Caroline Flint told BBC One's Politics Show: "This has been a complete distraction for 10 months [since the coalition was formed].

"It's a kind of failure to listen to experts, even though they always say they want to listen to clinicians. It's sad that 10 months have been wasted on this rather than making our NHS better."

However, government sources pointed out that almost 90% of patients in England were already covered by GP practices which had joined consortia.

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