8 Feb 2012

NHS bill faces fresh opposition

Health and Social Care Editor

David Cameron was barely on his feet at PMQs when the Faculty of Public Health announced it was calling for the Health and Social Care Bill to be withdrawn, writes Victoria Macdonald.

David Cameron (Getty)

It was tricky timing. Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) was inevitably going to be dominated by the NHS reforms simply because it is back in the House of Lords today.

And sure enough, the Labour leader Ed Miliband attacked the PM for “breaking his word on no top-down reorganisation”. All Mr Cameron’s attention, he said, was on the reforms and this meant the front-line was suffering.

“He knows in his heart of hearts that this is a complete disaster,” Mr Miliband said.

“Why won’t you just give up and stop wasting billions and drop your bill?”

Mr Cameron repeated the claim that GPs were not just “supporting our reforms, they are implementing our reforms”.

But this is a claim that is becoming more difficult for the government to keep making. The list of organisations now calling for the bill to be scrapped is growing and pressure is growing on the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley.

Read more: NHS reform and cuts special report

On Tuesday the Times quoted a Downing Street source as saying the health secretary should be “taken out and shot”, leading to a raft of headlines today claiming that Mr Lansley retains the backing of the prime minister.

It was noticeable, however, that Mr Lansley was not sitting anywhere near Mr Cameron in the Commons and Mr Miliband was quick to point this out.

Mr Cameron fired back saying: “The career prospects for my right honourable friend (Mr Lansley) are a lot better than his.”

The Lords will discuss the clause which requires the health secretary to promote a comprehensive NHS.

This is expected to be voted through, largely because it was a concession – or a clarification as the Tories prefer to call it – made by Mr Lansley in order to appease the Liberal Democrat peers.

More than 130 amendments have been tabled but what is not clear is how amenable the Lords are this time to giving it the relatively easy ride it had before Christmas.