Health secretary has no regrets about Health Bill

Health secretary Andrew Lansley does not regret introducing the Health Bill but admits it would have been better if more NHS staff supported the plans following the White Paper consultation.

Mr Lansley: looking back it would have been better if more NHS staff were on board with the changes.

In a heated debate at the Conservative party’s annual conference in Manchester on Monday evening, Mr Lansley said without the Bill PCTs could not have been abolished, nor could clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) be set up as statutory organisations.

He said the Bill will also allow for the introduction of a series of statutory duties for the NHS to reduce health inequalities, to integrate care and improve the quality of care.

But Mr Lansley said looking back it would have been better if more NHS staff were on board with the changes following the original White Paper consultation.

He said: ‘We had 6,000 responses, but frankly a lot of people following the White Paper consultation then moved on to actually think in detail about how the implementation was going to be achieved and then created a whole new set of issues that they had not brought forward in the initial consultation.

‘Actually it was clearly right from that point of view to pause and hold a listening exercise.’

It comes as Karen Jennings, Unison’s head of health, warned the Health Bill represents a ‘major threat’ to the NHS. She said it will lead to fragmentation, instability and widening health inequalities.  

She said: ‘It is true to say the NHS has to modernise. But there are a number of specific reasons why we need to be alert to the dangers in this Bill.

‘These reforms are about introducing an even more fevered market than we have had before.’

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