NHS reforms ‘will kill patients’, warns editor of ‘The Lancet'


Patients will die as a result of the Government's reforms to the NHS, the editor of a respected medical journal claimed yesterday.

Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, warned of "unprecedented chaos" in the NHS, as a result of plans to hand £60bn of spending to new commissioning groups led by GPs.

"People will die, thanks to the Government's decision to focus on competition rather than quality in healthcare," he said in an article for the Red Pepper website. "The coming disaster puts even greater responsibility on us to overturn this destructive legislation."

MPs finally cleared the Health and Social Care Bill to pass into law last week, after a bitter 14-month battle which split the coalition and pitted every major professional medical body against ministers. The group of doctors who are preparing to put up candidates against Lib Dem and Tory MPs at the 2015 election, as The IoS revealed last week, are to hold talks with the Electoral Commission about setting up a new political party. Dr Clive Peedell, the head of the group and co-chair of the NHS Consultants' Association, said they had not yet decided on a name for the new party.

A poll for the ConservativeHome website, funded by Tory donor Lord Ashcroft, showed that the NHS candidates would come third, with 18 per cent of people backing them. They attracted support from 15 per cent of Lib Dems and a fifth of Labour supporters. The addition of the doctors on the ballot paper would actually boost the Conservatives to within four seats of a majority. "Despite their disdain for the established parties, voters are very reluctant to vote for independent candidates, however much they may like the idea in principle," Lord Ashcroft said.

The NHS shake-up has threatened to inflict damage on both coalition parties since it was announced by Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary.

Mr Horton called for a concerted campaign to overturn the Bill and complained about a "failure" of leadership by professional medical bodies who did not prevent the coalition proceeding with its shake-up. "Early and united opposition would have seen off the Bill long ago," he said. "Instead, our leaders, in trade unions and professional bodies, saw 'opportunities' and decided they could work with it on our behalf. When they were finally persuaded to see the dangers, their policy changed to seeking 'significant amendments', despite the fact that the Government showed no sign of conceding any."

Attempts to rewrite the Bill by Lib Dem peers failed to quell the opposition, with party activists refusing to back the legislation at their spring conference this month.

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