Shirley Williams’ campaign against NHS reforms wins new concessions from Lansley

Here’s how The Guardian reports today’s news that the Coalition will offer further concessions to the NHS reform bill in an attempt to head off a revolt in the House of Lords led by Lib Dem peer Baroness Williams:

… ministers will table a series of amendments to the health and social care bill that will oblige Andrew Lansley to maintain the NHS as a national public service and, his critics say, limit his ambitions to expand the role of the private sector. The changes will also spell out the kind of services that must be offered by GPs and will effectively ban them from withholding certain forms of care from patients. …

The peers, led by the Lib Dem, Baroness Williams, and supported by a former Tory lord chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, have complained that the original bill left serious legal doubt as to whether the secretary of state would any longer be responsible for providing a “comprehensive health service for the people of England free at the point of need”. They feared that the absence of a chain of accountability would allow the service to become fragmented as different groups of doctors adopted different approaches and the role of the private sector expanded.

Lansley’s reforms will abolish two major tiers of health service bureaucracy and devolve greater responsibility for commissioning care to GPs – moves the health secretary believes will deliver a more efficient service and a system of care tailored better to patients’ needs.

The Department of Health confirmed the changes would be made to the bill but denied they were a panic response following a fortnight in which Lansley’s approach has been criticised by a cross-party group of MPs and a growing number of health professionals.

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10 Comments

  • The biggest problem with amending the Bill at this stage is that the Government didn’t wait for it to go through Parliament before starting to implement the reforms, which have been going on for a good 18 months. Given the difficulty of diverting the inertia of an organisation like the NHS, it seems unlikely that there will be much deviation from Lansley’s original proposals.

    This will unfortuantely have to go down as one of those things, like tuition fees, where the Party was just so new to the idea of being in Government that it completely dropped the ball and failed to think about the political or policy ramifications of what was happening.

    In an ideal world I’d agree with Evan Harris et al. that the Bill should be scrapped, but that will likely cause more problems than it would solve. The best thing the party can do is come to an agreement on what sort of healthcare system it wants, then try to implement it in the masses of secondary legislation that will follow the bill and also on a local level.

  • Was it not Shirley Williams who said that Nick Clegg told her he had not even read the original Lansley proposal although he voted for it?

  • Christine Headley 29th Jan '12 - 3:14pm

    Anyone who acts as though a bill is going to become an act before it has received royal assent should be sacked. I suspect that what has been happening in the last 18 months was based on existing legislation rather than the new proposals.

  • Paul Pettinger 29th Jan '12 - 4:02pm

    Tom, I wish I knew it was a cock up, rather than a conspiracy, but in 2008 Nick Clegg said he supported NHS patients with cancer to be able to pay extra for better treatment (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1054034/Nick-Clegg-says-cancer-patients-able-pay-extra-treatment-NHS-care.html). This is effectively a full blown NHS voucher scheme by the back door – a long held fantasy of some on the right, but which even the Conservatives considered too electorally unpalatable. But not our leader.

  • @Tom Smith

    “In an ideal world I’d agree with Evan Harris et al. that the Bill should be scrapped, but that will likely cause more problems than it would solve.”

    Not so sure. Best of all would be for us to have voted it down in the Commons. That would have clearly shown to the public we do stand up to the Tories in the coalition. As it is, even the best negotiated deal still will make us look just like a bunch of patsies to the voters and we will continue to be deciamted in the polls.

  • Tony Greaves 30th Jan '12 - 12:52am

    What this headline shows is just how hopeless the media are in understanding what goes on in the Lords, and how besotted they are with personalities, Shirley has done a good job on this Bill but she has not “led” the charge either on the Lords or on behalf of the LDs in the Lords. A huge amount of work has been done by our team led by Judith Jolly and goes on, on a large number of issues in this Bill. And there is massive involvement around the House. Expect ignorant and stupidly counter productive comment from Labour particularly at the Commons end.

    Whether the Bill is “fit to proceed” into Report or will, at the end, be “fit to pass” are different matters. Report starts next week (8th Feb) and there will be seven whole days of it.

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Greaves Posted 30th January 2012 at 12:52 am…………..Expect ignorant and stupidly counter productive comment from Labour particularly at the Commons end………………

    There are many ‘sticks’ with which to beat the last administration but the NHS is not one….

    From a 2010 BBC report………Much more was spent on the NHS and resulted in record numbers of doctors and nurses.
    Polls showed increased public satisfaction.
    Waiting times fell.
    The death rate fell by 17 per cent, particularly fast for circulatory diseases.
    The infant death rate halved.
    Hospitals, health centres and other NHS buildings improved and became more welcoming……..(By 2009 the NHS was doing as well in international comparisons, as it had in pre-Thatcher days, and was praised even by the IMF, not a known fan of socialised medicine. WHO declared English mental health services the best in Europe.)

    The real question is WHY this massive, top-down reorgaisation is taking place. Conservative ideology (backed by our representatives) is the real reason…

  • Tony Dawson 30th Jan '12 - 7:02pm

    @Tom Smith:

    “This will unfortuantely have to go down as one of those things, like tuition fees, where the Party was just so new to the idea of being in Government that it completely dropped the ball and failed to think about the political or policy ramifications of what was happening.”

    Surely not. The Party never ‘dropped this ball’. The Bill was never part of the coalition agreement: it was cobbled together by a few parliamentarians who appear to have largely-ignored the concerns and reservations voiced by their own party members and banged ahead regardless, making Primary Care Trusts virtually useless for about a year as such limited talent as is held within them haemorrhages away.

    @jason:

    “There are many ‘sticks’ with which to beat the last administration but the NHS is not one….”

    Whatever are you talking about? Besides pouring a lot of their so-called ‘growth’ into unjustifiable salary rises for certain grades of managers, doctors and nurses (but not others!), Labour left the NHS with a massive 20 per cent ‘efficiency saving’ programme which is only now being implemented by the Health Service.

  • Chris Roberts 11th Feb '12 - 6:00pm

    So sad about the health bill. Having lived in USA for some years I know the importance of a national health service. This is one thing the UK did right. How do we fight this ? Or do we all have to relocate to Scotland – I understand why independence looks so good the English people did not vote for this craziness. Look what the conservatives did to our rail system and now it’s the most expensive in Europe. Nick Clegg you’ve let us down so badlly.

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