Enthusiastic GPs are Health Bill's biggest asset

GP had breakfast in Westminster recently and it would seem the talk there is of not alienating the enthusiastic GPs who are health secretary Andrew Lansley's most valuable resource in driving health reform.

Interesting then that last week's GP revealed the results of our exclusive survey finding more than two-thirds of GPs back amendments to the Health Bill proposed by the Liberal Democrats and Labour.

It must be exhausting for health secretary Andrew Lansley and the DoH at the moment to be fighting fires on so many Health Bill fronts. Not only is one part of the coalition government seeking to make changes (the Lib Dems) but the prime minister himself is reportedly concerned about the opposition that his NHS 'evolution' is encountering.

In the last week alone on our website GPOnline we have reported NHS Confederation concerns that DoH plans to reward reductions in health inequalities could have the opposite effect.

Former Labour health secretary Lord Owen also put the boot in, adding that under the Salisbury Convention the House of Lords is entitled to make substantial amendments to the Bill because neither coalition government party's manifesto was explicit about NHS reform plans.

The last time GP met health minister Lord Howe, who is responsible for getting the legislation through, he was unhappy at the lack of sleep he was getting because opposition peers were insisting on unprecedented all-night sittings to delay electoral reform. It would seem that the Lords is again to prove a thorn in the side.

What will be interesting in the coming weeks is how the undoubted Health Bill amendments will be spun. The actions of a listening government? Or a triumph for under fire Nick Clegg and his Lib Dems?

However the coalition government must be clear that any amendments do not alienate the enthusiastic GPs who are the only ones capable of bringing about the desired change.

Be in no doubt that the next step for Mr Lansley will be quite the tightrope walk.

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