Coalition may backtrack on NHS reform plans

 

The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, has signalled that he is preparing to make concessions to his controversial NHS reform programme in the face of growing opposition from doctors, unions and his own Coalition partners.

The campaign group 38 Degrees – which was instrumental in forcing the Government to drop its plans to sell off parts of Britain's forests – collected more than 80,000 signatures against the plans over the weekend.

The British Medical Association will hold an emergency meeting tomorrow to decide whether to oppose the reforms – which would hand over huge power to GPs to commission treatments for their patients.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, spent the weekend firefighting criticism from activists in his own party at the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, where members voted overwhelmingly for ministers to re-consider key aspects of the proposals.

Mr Lansley yesterday suggested that the reforms were not set in stone and could change. Questioned about the scale of opposition from the Conservatives' coalition partners, he said: "Our proposals are always under review.

"As you put a bill through parliament you look carefully at how the legislation delivers in the context of the reforms that we set out. We've already made changes. We are not sitting there thinking we must know the answers and nothing can change."

Privately, senior Lib Dem figures fear that the health reforms could be disastrous to the party's reputation and electoral prospects if they are mishandled.

"This could be worse for us than tuition fees," said one source.

Lib Dem members voted to demand rules that would prevent private providers from coming in to "cherry pick" the most profitable NHS services, and also to ensure that elected local authority representatives are involved in commissioning decisions.

The party leadership said it would "listen" to activists' views.

But Evan Harris, a former party health spokesman, said this was not acceptable. "Listening is not good enough," he said. "We want major changes in policy and significant changes to the bill."

In his conference speech Mr Clegg repeated his pledge that the NHS would never be privatised. "No government of which I am part will tamper with the essential contract at the heart of the NHS: to care collectively for each other as fellow citizens," he said.

Members of 38 Degrees voted to make "Saving the NHS" their top priority. The online group's executive director, David Babbs, said: "38 Degrees members have proved with the forest sell-off that when we come together in big numbers, it's possible to make the government think again."

In addition, representatives of the 140,000-member British Medical Association will hear demands from doctors that the Government hold a public referendum on the reforms and withdraw its Health and Social Care Bill "if there is not a clear mandate of support".

Doctors are concerned that the measures would increase competition and encourage privatisation, and their scepticism is matched by that of think-tanks, the health select committee, medical journals and even David Cameron's cardiologist brother-in-law.

Robust exchanges over the best way forward are expected at tomorrow's meeting, which will be attended by 350 representatives of consultants, GPs and junior doctors.

The BMA will also debate a motion of no confidence in Mr Lansley.

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

Primary Teaching Supply

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories