Editorial: Why Mr Lansley still has more listening to do

Just for a moment, health secretary Andrew Lansley must have thought the unprecedented decision to hold a 'listening exercise' midway through the Health Bill's progress through parliament had got him off the hook.

But opposition to the NHS reforms now appears to have shifted up a gear, as the House of Lords prepares to debate the Health Bill.

More peers have put in bids to speak on the topic than on any other since Tony Blair introduced the Bill to ban fox hunting.

The decision to pause the Health Bill now looks not like a masterstroke that will guarantee its eventual success, but simply one of many markers of the scale of opposition to the government's plans.

The health secretary told the Conservative party conference earlier this month that much of the opposition to his plans was 'misrepresentation and misinformation' by left-wingers, and vowed to press ahead.

Both the NHS Alliance and the National Association of Primary Care this week voiced support for clinical commissioning, and urged peers not to radically change the Health Bill.

But the BMA has repeated its calls for the Bill to be torn up or overhauled. The RCGP also continues strongly to voice its opposition to the changes.

This week, GP newspaper offers readers a chance to have their say, with the launch of a poll asking whether parliament should accept or reject the Health Bill.

Although the Bill is likely to be passed by the Lords, it remains to be seen whether it will do so without significant dents to its most contentious sections.

Even if it does, Mr Lansley would do well to take note of the substantial anger in the profession over not just the reforms, but also the perceived attacks on pensions and income. Dr Peter Swinyard spells out in graphic detail in this week's GP how doctors could resist DoH-imposed changes. Mr Lansley, the listening exercise was not enough. You have more listening to do.


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