Talking on the Andrew Marr show in the wake of crushing losses for the party in local elections on 6 May, Mr Clegg said getting the Health Bill right and protecting the NHS was now his number one priority.
He said the ‘pause’ in the Health Bill was not a cosmetic exercise and would result in ‘substantial, significant changes to the legislation’.
He said: ‘Let me be very clear on this, as far as government legislation is concerned, no bill is better than a bad one. I want to get this right.
‘I am not going to ask Liberal Democrat MPs and peers to proceed with legislation on something as precious and cherished… as the NHS unless I personally am satisfied that what these changes do is an evolutionary change in the NHS, not a disruptive revolution.’
Mr Clegg said he thought GPs should not be forced to commission, and said there must be ‘clear guarantees that there will not be backdoor privatisation in the NHS'.
He said: ‘A lot of people have said to me: "You are going too fast, you are trying to meet artificial deadlines, you are forcing GPs to take on commissioning role when they might not want to or aren’t able to". I basically think there are right.
‘I think what we should now do is an evolutionary approach and [ensure] that this change only happens where people are able and willing to take on these new changes.’