07:52 Wednesday 15th June 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
PAUL STAINTON: Ten weeks after an avalanche of criticism halted Andrew Lansley’s plans to reform the NHS, the Government has agreed to water down its Health and Social Care Bill. Well, what does it mean for me and you in layman’s terms? Doctors and nurses will join groups of GPs in controlling budgets. The Bill will be discussed at a commissioning conference being held in London today. The Health Regulator will no longer promote competition. Instead it will focus on the interests of patients. And the pace of change slows down. But where does it leave South Cambridgeshire MP Andrew Lansley? And are we any closer to really knowing what the heck’s going on? The (BBC) East Political Editor is Deborah McGurran. Morning Deborah.
DEBORAH MCGURRAN: Morning.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s a bit of a mess, isn’t it? And there’s a lot of criticism in the papers this morning for reining back on these changes. But I suppose the Government say, well we listenened, and that’s why we’ve changed it.
DEBORAH MCGURRAN: Well that’s right. The Government is saying it has listened. And it does look as though Andrew Lansley, for the moment, has lived to fight on another day. But I would add the coda, for now. He’s certainly an embattled Health Secretary, although there was this spirited defence by David Cameron yesterday, saying they’d made the legislation better, and claiming it was not humiliating. But at the end of the day, having to put the proposals on hold for two months, as we were saying, is not a good thing. Having to accept that they’ve not got everything right is not a good thing. It is a public relations and policy disaster. And there’s no getting away from the fact that the changes unveiled yesterday are a climb down for Andrew Lansley. Now the pressure’s off the Government, temporarily now. The question is whether the pressure’s off Andrew Lansley himself, or whether he will be removed at some stage. At present he’s survived the storm, but on balance, him going can’t be ruled out.
PAUL STAINTON: Many of the papers this morning are saying the original Bill should have been pushed through, with that focus on competition, and giving GPs sole control of budgets. But the problem was they put it on the table before they’d spoken to people, and then there was nothing to fall back on, was there?
DEBORAH MCGURRAN: Absolutely. Of course the Conservatives would have loved to have pushed this through. They were arguing for it to go through, and the LibDems also supported it initially. Let’s not forget that. Although they’re saying that they have now stopped it in its tracks, they did vote it through. For all the talk of, we’ve demonstrated that we’re a good Government by listening, that we heard yesterday, and the defence that when you introduce legislation, it brings forward concerns, and as it goes through the House it improves, the fact is that when legislation is put to Parliament, and then you have to pause and change it, it is a U-turn. And it questions David Cameron’s judgment in letting Andrew Lansley bring forward this reorganisation of the Health Service before it was ready. And it questions the Health Secretary’s judgment for bringing it forward in the first place. And now the politics has caught up with the policy, and it does appear to be in a shambles. It’s not really clear now how that commissioning system will work at all. Health professionals behind the scenes are facing confusion this Summer.
PAUL STAINTON: How long do you think he’s got, Andrew Lansley? Because this was his baby, wasn’t it?
DEBORAH MCGURRAN: Well Andrew Lansley is still maintaining that everyone knows that change is required, and that’s because of factors like the increasing ageing population, and the increasing drug budgets, and paying for better treatments, and that the idea behind this reorganisation is to enagage the staff, and increase the quality and effectiveness of the NHS. Labour MPs are saying the reorganisation is expensive, and causing chaos and confusion. But more damagingly, privately I’ve heard more than one MP from his own Party describing the reforms as “bonkers”, and that the element of privatisation will create death by 1000 cuts to district hospitals, which would be very unpopular, and that Mr Lansley’s position itself is unsustainable in the long term.
PAUL STAINTON: Deborah, thank you for that. Deborah McGurran, the East Political Editor, on the future of Andrew Lansley.