Health reform in the balance as Lords prepare to vote on NHS Bill

A survey of psychiatrists found that only one in ten believes the plans will improve care

Ministers have pleaded with peers not to wreck controversial health reforms in a series of votes in the House of Lords today.

The Government betrayed signs of anxiety as a two-day debate began which will culminate in an attempt by opponents to block or delay plans for a sweeping overhaul of the structure of the NHS.

Lord Owen, the former leader of the SDP, and Lord Hennessy, the academic and constitutional expert, will today call for the proposals to be referred to a special parliamentary committee, which would report in December.

They argue that the NHS and Social Care Bill, which hands responsibility for the vast majority of health spending to GPs and clinicians, is so complex that it has to be considered in detail.

But Earl Howe, the Health minister, wrote to peers yesterday, warning that any delay could kill off the Government's chances of turning the plans into law.

He said: "The House must have proper time to examine the Bill but the proposal put forward by Lord Owen could result in delay, which could well prove fatal to it. This is not a risk that I believe this House should take."

Meanwhile, Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, rebutted accusations by peers that the Bill would undermine his constitutional responsibility for the NHS.

He wrote to Lord Hennessy: "The Bill will enable us and the NHS further to improve services. It will not in any sense dilute my responsibility and accountability for doing so."

More than 100 peers are due to speak in the debate, which started yesterday and will end with the votes this afternoon. The Bill's Second Reading began as more than 60 leading medical professionals called in a letter to The Independent for ministers to scrap or substantially rewrite the reforms.

Meanwhile a survey of 1,890 psychiatrists found that only one in 10 believes the plans will improve patient care. The Labour peer Lord Rea, a former GP, urged ministers to oppose the plans outright because they ran counter to ministers' promises to stop "top-down" reorganisations of the health service. "Instead of having a Bill that was in a manifesto, we have a Bill that was expressly ruled out by David Cameron and subsequently in the Coalition Agreement," he said.

Baroness Thornton, an opposition spokeswoman, claimed the Bill would "fundamentally change the nature of the NHS" and turn "patient choice into shopping".

NHS patients will be able to pick consultant

NHS patients needing specialist treatment will for the first time be able to choose the consultant to whom they are referred, Andrew Lansley announced yesterday.

In a significant extension of patient choice, hospitals will be required to accept all "clinically appropriate referrals to named hospital consultant-led teams".

Patients will be able to travel to any part of the country to see the consultant of their choice and hospitals would be required to publish individual "success rates" for their specialists to help patients choose, the Department of Health said.

The announcement, timed to bolster public support for the Health and Social Care Bill during its Second Reading in the Lords, brings NHS patients into line with private patients who already have the right to choose a named consultant.

But it marks a divergence from past policy which prohibited named consultant referrals to keep down waiting lists.

Rating individual doctors' performance has also been rejected in the past on the grounds that modern medicine is a team activity and individual performance measures would be misleading.

Sir David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS, interviewed in 2008, said: "It's the team that makes the difference, not the individual. The days of the heroic surgeon, like Sir Lancelot Spratt, are long gone."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own