Lansley's Delusions

Emma Baines

Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill, due to return to the Lords next month, is looking less and less well. A poll of more than 2500 GPs carried out by the RCGP found that 98 per cent were in favour of rejecting the bill if the other Royal Colleges agreed. When Ed Miliband challenged David Cameron with these figures on Wednesday, the prime minister responded by claiming the reforms were not only supported but being implemented by one Dr Greg Conner, a GP from Miliband's Doncaster constituency. A spokesman for Doncaster Primary Care Trust later told GP newspaper that ‘Dr Conner was no longer chairman of the Doncaster clinical commissiong group and he had in fact left the area.’

There are even Tories who don’t like the bill. The Health Select Committee, chaired by the former Conservative health secretary Stephen Dorrell, has criticised it for imposing structural changes on the NHS that make it worse, not better, at saving money:

The reorganisation process continues to complicate the push for efficiency gains. Although it may have facilitated savings in some cases, we heard that it more often creates disruption and distraction that hinders the ability of organisations to consider truly effective ways of reforming service delivery and releasing savings.

Meanwhile, the medical profession had at last got itself together to present an (almost) united front in opposition to the bill. The Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives last week joined the British Medical Association in calling for the bill to be withdrawn. And according to a report in the Guardian, all but one of the Medical Royal Colleges had come out in opposition. The Academy of the Medical Royal Colleges had drafted a statement that was to have been released on Wednesday, saying that the Bill, as it stands, ‘may widen rather than lessen health inequalities and that unnecessary competition will undermine the provision of high-quality integrated care to patients.’

The doctors' revolt was to have culminated last night in a summit meeting of the BMA, RCN and AOMRC, called by the BMA leader, Hamish Meldrum. But the AOMRC withdrew its statement after Lansley apparently made a series of desperate phone calls to the heads of several of the Royal Colleges, promising to act on their concerns.

With his usual grace and diplomacy, Lansley has responded to doctors' criticisms by insulting their leadership and comparing himself to Aneurin Bevan, as if destroying the NHS were an achievement equal to founding it. In a prepared speech delivered at the launch of a children's health initiative in Liverpool, Lansley quoted Bevan's remark that the BMA were 'politically poisoned people', and added:

Sometimes change is hard. Sometimes, you can’t expect unanimity. Sometimes the right thing to do is keep listening, keep making your case, keep calm.

But will he carry on?


  • 27 January 2012 at 4:33pm
    harr20jj says:
    What should be troubling Lansley isn't the lack of unanimity, but rather how perilously close he is to the sort of unanimity he must surely have hoped to avoid.

  • 27 January 2012 at 5:20pm
    Doomlord says:
    Will he be allowed to carry on is the more relevant question. The fact is Cameron is praying for Chris Huhne to have to resign over his driving shenanigans, thereby triggering a reshuffle in which Lansley can be quietly put out of our misery.

  • 28 January 2012 at 10:11pm
    GPdoc says:
    If you think the NHS can just carry on unchanged, that PCTs do a great job, can I ask what colour the sky is on your planet ?
    If all GPs are so opposed to commissioning, who do you think are running hundreds of commissioning groups across the country ?

    • 31 January 2012 at 9:50am
      semitone says: @ GPdoc
      I read this piece again to make sure, but I still can't find it. Can you show us where in the article it says "the NHS can carry on unchanged, PCTs do a great job, and all GPs are opposed to commissioning?"

  • 5 February 2012 at 5:49pm
    hullister says:
    Since PCTs have already - and illegally, in that to do so was to anticipate a change in the rules that has yet to be passed into law - been dismantled to a greater or lesser extent, who are we to imagine will be doing the commissioning if not the GPs? The NHS can't be left in limbo while the Westminster farce lurches on.
    The govt response throughout has been on the level of half-truths that Cameron produced last week, and has never honestly responded to the charge that the future is commercial and competitive - since we are going to have to pay for this through taxes, the result will be worse than privatisation.