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Poll reveals public doubts on health reforms

Less than a third of the public support radical health reforms which will allow private companies to provide NHS services, according to a new opinion poll.

The YouGov survey found only 27% of people are behind health secretary Andrew Lansley's proposals to let profit-making companies increase their role in the service.

Half of the 1,892 respondents opposed the policy, with hostility most evident among Lib Dem voters, where 56% were against, and just 30% in favour.

The use of private companies was supported by 46% of Conservative supporters who took part in the poll, while 32% were against the initiative.

The poll, commissioned by public services union Unison, also reveals that half the public oppose the new GP consortiums that will bet set up across England.

Private management groups will be used to assist the groups them with finance, planning and management.

The Health and Social Care Bill, which has been dubbed by experts as "the biggest shake-up of the NHS in its history," will be debated in parliament tomorrow.

Under the controversial plans, GPs in England will be handed the power to commission £80 billion of treatment for patients - 80% of the entire health service budget - from "any willing provider".

So far, 141 GP consortia, serving more than half of the population of England, have now signed up as "pathfinders" to pilot the new arrangements ahead of their planned implementation in 2013.

The heads of six health unions, including the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing, have written to the Government warning of their "extreme concerns" about creating greater commercial competition between the NHS and private companies within the health service.