Ministers 'fully behind' Lansley and NHS reforms, says Cameron

As plans face fresh attack by Labour peers, Clegg insists Health Secretary is right man to lead shake-up

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Indy Politics

David Cameron will stage a high-profile hospital visit tomorrow as he attempts to win the public-relations battle over the Government's controversial health reforms.

The Prime Minister will intervene after the plans to overhaul the structure of the NHS came under fire last week from three unnamed Tory cabinet ministers. Downing Street was forced yesterday to express Mr Cameron's full confidence in Andrew Lansley as Health Secretary amid fresh criticism of his failure to make the case for the Health and Social Care Bill.

A spokesman insisted Mr Cameron was "fully committed to the reform and modernisation of the health service".

He slapped down Simon Hughes, the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, who called for Mr Lansley to move job before the next election. "This is not an issue for Simon Hughes," the spokesman said.

The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also gave his support to the embattled Health Secretary. He said: "Andrew Lansley is the architect of the NHS Bill. He cares passionately about the NHS. He's the right man for the job."

Labour yesterday seized on the disclosure that several risk registers compiled by strategic health authorities warning of the potential impact of the reform. One authority warned the shake-up could lead to a repeat of the South Staffordshire hospital scandal in which up to 1,200 patients died because of poor care.

Yesterday Mr Lansley, in an article for the Health Service Journal, said competition in the NHS would bring in innovation. "After all, in any other sector, it is the thousands of individual decisions to adopt a new technology – from, say, cassettes to compact discs to MP3 players – which combine to sweep away less effective services."

As his plans came under renewed attack in the House of Lords last night, the Government rejected claims of a conflict of interest between its reforms and the management consultants, McKinsey & Company, which is advising on the plans. Labour's Baroness Royall said the firm seemed "to be setting the rules in the Health Bill and benefiting from the outcome".

Labour's Lord Campbell-Savours asked if McKinsey was passing on information shared by civil servants to its corporate clients.

He added: "Doesn't this whole area of activity by McKinsey suggest that there is a conflict of interest which the public should know about?"

Earl Howe, a Health minister, said the peer was "insinuating some impropriety on the part of McKinsey" but told him: "I know of no such impropriety." He also said the Coalition Government was spending far less on consultants than the previous administration.

As consideration of the Bill resumed, Lord Howe accepted an amendment which will force private providers of NHS services to co-operate in the training and education of staff. The crossbencher Baroness Masham of Ilton championed an amendment which required healthcare providers to be more open with patients when mistakes were made in their care. But her amendment was defeated by 234 votes to 198.