The Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is under mounting pressure to dilute his controversial reforms to the National Health Service amid a growing chorus of criticism from MPs and health professionals.
In a report published today, the all-party Commons Health Select Committee demands significant changes to the plans to hand 60 per cent of the NHS budget to GPs. Senior Liberal Democrats moved in for the kill. Baroness Shirley Williams warned darkly that the Coalition would be "in very great trouble" unless there were "major changes" to the Health and Social Care Bill.
The uncertainty over the biggest reorganisation of the NHS since its birth in 1948 threatens to cause chaos in the service. Hundreds of staff working for primary care trusts, currently in charge of commissioning, are already being made redundant. But health service bosses admit some may be rehired after only six months because GPs will need managers to run the new system.
An unrepentant Mr Lansley insisted his reforms were still on track but cut an isolated figure when he made a Commons statement last night – with Cabinet colleagues conspicuous by their absence. David Cameron and Nick Clegg are privately concerned that Mr Lansley has failed to "sell" his huge changes.
The Health Secretary confirmed he would "pause, listen and engage" during a break in the Bill's passage through Parliament over the coming weeks – a highly unusual approach when a measure is so far down the legislative track.
Mr Lansley admitted there were "genuine concerns" about his proposals and hinted at some concessions to his critics.