UK Politics

Andrew Lansley right man for NHS reform - Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg
Image caption Nick Clegg is under pressure from Lib Dems to fight changes to the NHS

Nick Clegg has insisted that Health Secretary Andrew Lansley must be allowed to see his overhaul of the NHS in England through Parliament.

The deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader said Mr Lansley believed "passionately" in change and was the "right man for the job".

On Sunday Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes said Mr Lansley should "move on" once the NHS overhaul was completed.

Meanwhile, peers rejected two amendments to Mr Lansley's plans.

The Health and Social Care Bill, which aims to give GPs more control of the NHS budget and boost the private sector's role, has encountered strong opposition during its progress through Parliament.

Of the latest amendments only two went to a vote on Monday and both were rejected by peers

One would have placed a "duty of candour" on the health secretary when dealing with patients whose procedures have gone wrong - it failed by 36 votes.

'Move on'

The other amendment, advocating that the government should prevent bureaucracy in the NHS, was defeated by 62 votes.

But another amendment, which will force private providers of NHS services to co-operate in the training and education of staff, was accepted by ministers.

Labour and several medical professional bodies are against the bill.

Mr Lansley has been criticised for his handling of the changes to the NHS, with opponents arguing that he has not presented a coherent case for them or a clear vision for the future.

Several Liberal Democrats have voiced concerns and the bill has already been "paused" once by the coalition in an effort to gather wider support.

On Sunday Mr Hughes said Mr Lansley should "move on" from his role after the legislation is completed.

He told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show it might be for the best if the health secretary changed roles - but only after the reforms were in place.

"My political judgement is that in the second half of the parliament it would be better to move on," he said.

Mr Hughes, who remains outside the government, said amendments demanded by the House of Lords could leave the bill "in better shape", but it was still "not the bill we would have wanted".

But Prime Minister David Cameron backed up Mr Lansley, saying he was "at one" with the health secretary over the plans.

Mr Clegg, who is under pressure from grass-roots Lib Dems to ensure the bill does not lead to "back-door privatisation" of the NHS, told the BBC: "Andrew Lansley is the architect of the NHS bill. He cares passionately about the NHS. He's the right man for the job and he must see it through."

Bodies such as the British Medical Association and Royal College of Nursing remain opposed to the NHS changes, despite concessions from ministers.

While giving GPs a bigger say has been welcomed by some, the competition element remains controversial.

'Equal status'

The bill has suffered two defeats in the House of Lords.

Last November peers passed an amendment stating that the health secretary should "promote equality for those providing services on behalf of the health service".

And last week they backed another demanding that the NHS "give mental illness equal status with physical illness".

Peers are expected to spend up to seven days in total debating and voting on hundreds of amendments made by opponents of the bill, and concessions offered by ministers.

The health bill has already been voted through by the House of Commons.

In the Lords, the government faced questions about the role of the management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company in helping to frame the legislation.

This follows a report in the Mail on Sunday that senior staff at the NHS body Monitor, whose role under the plans would include regulating healthcare contracts, had been entertained at the company's expense.

Labour's Baroness Royall said the company seemed "to be setting the rules in the health bill and benefiting from the outcome".

But health minister Earl Howe said spending on consultants had fallen since the coalition took power in 2010.

He added: "We need to be careful before casting doubt on the integrity of public servants and, indeed, of McKinsey."

Earl Howe also said it would be "irresponsible" for the government not to use the expertise available and that consultants, if used properly, could be "highly cost-effective".

For Labour, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has promised to give Mr Cameron the "fight of his life" unless he tones down the bill.

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