Cameron 'under-briefed about NHS reforms', former minister claims

Prime minister David Cameron was shocked by the extent of Andrew Lansley's plans to reform the NHS and replaced him to roll out the reforms less 'aggressively', a former Cabinet minister has claimed.

Mr Cameron was 'shocked' by the extent of the NHS reforms, Mr Portillo claims

Michael Portillo, a Conservative cabinet minister from 1992 to 1997, said that Mr Cameron was under-briefed about the extent Mr Lansley’s NHS reforms in England. He said Mr Cameron appointed Jeremy Hunt as health secretary as the coalition are ‘sensitive’ about the next general election.

Mr Portillo made the claims at the National Association of Primary Care conference in Birmingham this week in response to a question about competition in the NHS.

Speaking about the Health and Social Care Act, Mr Portillo said: ‘The prime minister got a bit of a shock. He was under-briefed about what Andrew Lansley was doing.

'He has put in a new secretary of state and as I know from my own experience, a new secretary of state says "I don’t want to do things exactly like my predecessor did as what would be the point of my being here if I did the same thing?" Obviously the election is nearer and the coalition partners are quite sensitive about it.’

When asked if competition in the NHS was irrevocable, Mr Portillo said: ‘In the short term this might be rolled out less aggressively than might otherwise be the case but, over the long term, that is what is you should all expect to live with, that I have no doubt.’

Mr Portillo also accused the government of a 'sleight of hand' over its plans. 

‘A little sleight of hand has occurred here which is under the guise of more localisation a little bit of centralisation has occurred as well as less of the budget is available to commissioning groups than it was to the PCTs,' he said.

Mr Portillo said that since the Health Act went through parliament, there has been a period of relative calm and that the NHS was not a ‘big issue’ at the moment. But, he said, ‘no-one can rely on that quiet time continuing.'

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