14 Jun 2011

Government to unveil NHS bill changes

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is expected to set out a significant rewrite of his NHS reforms after an independent review found “genuine and deep-seated concerns” about the plans.

NHS reforms are expected to be

Months after the Health and Social Care Bill was “paused”, the government is expected to announce that it will slow the process of giving more purchasing power to GPs.

The NHS Future Forum, appointed to lead a “listening exercise”, published its findings on Monday alongside a list of recommended amendments to the flagship policy.

The forum – which considered thousands of submissions during the consultation – said there were “genuine and deep-seated concerns” which needed to be addressed.

It said the bill’s requirement for NHS regulator Monitor to promote competition as its primary duty should be “significantly diluted” and shifted more towards choice, collaboration and integration.

Among recommendations expected to be accepted later today are the relaxation of the 2013 deadline for groups of GPs to take over budgets – and for hospital doctors and nurses to be given a role on them.

Local health and wellbeing boards will be given a stronger role, with a greater voice for patients and legal responsibility for the NHS restored to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

The plans for the NHS have tested the coalition on both sides. Many Conservatives say reforms will bring efficiency and savings, but many Liberal Democrats say the plans could lead to an effective privatisation of services.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told Liberal Democrat MPs and peers last night that the scale of the rethink meant the party’s key demands had been “very, very handsomely met”.

Read more: NHS reform plan needs 'substantial change'

“Our overall demands – slow the pace of change, don’t give preference to the private sector, and proper accountability – all of these things have been very, very handsomely met,” Mr Clegg said.

“The bill is now a whole lot better and will make sure decisions are taken in the best interests of patients. It’s been a fantastic collective effort,” he continued.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, the architect of the reforms, denied being sidelined to appease the Liberal Democrats.

“Together, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister and I established this process. I think it’s been a valuable process and I’m going to report to Parliament,” he said.

But Labour continued to oppose the Bill, insisting the reforms could “largely be achieved without the Government’s legislation and without David Cameron’s high-risk and high-cost reorganisation”.

The parliamentary progress of the Health and Social Care Bill was halted in April following criticism from academics and health unions.

Ministers hope the changes will pass into law before Parliament is adjourned for the summer.