Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Tory committee chair critical of spin on NHS plans

Tory MP Stephen Dorrell, who chairs the Health Select Committee, has said the Government got it wrong in the way it presented key reforms of the NHS.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley claimed his White Paper – which included plans to abolish Primary Care Trusts and replace them with GP consortia – was a “radical shake up” of the NHS when it was published in the summer.

But Dorrell told Lobbydog the reforms were actually a continuation of measures put in place by the previous Government.

“It’s notable that when the process started this was presented as the most radical shake up of the health services since 1948,” said Dorrell, a former Health Secretary.

“They have started to change that now saying that it is more about evolution than revolution. That’s because it is not so much about new ideas as it is about new urgency to implement them.”

Mr Dorrell continued: “The last Government was in favour of a lot of things that Andrew Lansley is in favour of. The last Government was in favour of removing bureaucracy and so is Andrew Lansley.

“What’s happened is that now there is a greater emphasis on continuity and less on the idea that policy is going off in a different direction, because it isn’t doing that.”

The comments will be seen as a slight to Lansley. Particularly as it emerged last week that a ‘high level review board’ consisting of other senior members of the Coalition had been set up to keep an eye on the direction of health policy.

Mr Dorrell repeated recent comments that the NHS needed to prioritise attempts to deliver savings of £20bn.

The White Paper should be seen as a means to deliver the savings, he argued, but that would only be possible if more efforts were made by ministers to engage with NHS professionals and communities.

He said: “The White Paper didn’t seem to make engaging with people a top priority. The first priority was to make it look like a new world coming in 2014, but the real priority was to engage with people in 2011.”

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