Osborne pledges NHS reform changes

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George Osborne today said the Government would make changes to its controversial NHS reform plans.

The Chancellor was speaking after Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg demanded amendments to the Bill going through Parliament.

Mr Osborne said today: "I want changes as well, so does (Prime Minister) David Cameron."

Mr Osborne tried to play down fears the changes amounted to backdoor privatisation, saying: "We want to reassure people we're not - and never have wanted to - privatising the NHS. We believe in the NHS as a public service free at the point of use.

"We want to carry health professionals with us as well as the public in reforming an institution which is very dear to everyone's hearts."

The Chancellor refused to rule out a British taxpayer-funded bail-out of Greece's struggling economy, but said a deal similar to the Irish bail-out was unlikely.

He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "We certainly don't want to be part of any bail-out of Greece. There are some very difficult questions Greece has to address."

Mr Osborne said the British Government was "reluctant partners" to the European Union rescue package for Portugal, agreed by his predecessor Alistair Darling in the days following last year's general election before the coalition was formed.

"We have to live with that," Mr Osborne told the programme, adding: "I can't see us ever writing a cheque directly from the British taxpayer to the Greeks or the Portuguese. Ireland was a special case."