Another week, another crisis: Lansley under fire again

By Ian Dunt

Andrew Lansley is preparing himself for another bad week at the Department of Health after two new crises hit his plans for NHS reform.

The health secretary was accused of “burying good news” after reports emerged that his department sat on reports showing unprecedented satisfaction with the health service.

Meanwhile, a Tory MP and doctor laid into the reforms in the Daily Telegraph, saying they could change the NHS “beyond recognition”.

The developments follow a tough week for the health secretary, whose reforms have been criticised by health experts, unions, Labour MPs and some Tory backbenchers.

Last weekend, the Lib Dem spring conference voted to oppose the reforms, closely followed by the British Medical Association (BMA), whose doctors lambasted the plans in an emergency session on Tuesday.

The Observer reports that polling organisation IpsosMORI submitted results to the Department of Health (DoH) last autumn showing record levels of satisfaction with the NHS.

The department has had the information for six months, but the latest details on its website relate to 2007. Critics say that the polling would disprove government arguments that sweeping reforms are necessary due to a poor service.

The report follows complaints from doctors that government attempts to unfavourably compare British survival rates from certain diseases with those on the continent were inaccurate.

Delegates at the BMA conference supported a motion on Tuesday deploring the government’s “use of misleading and inaccurate information to denigrate the NHS and justify the health bill”.

Meanwhile, Totnes MP and family doctor Sarah Wollaston, argued that the plans would change the NHS “beyond recognition”.

Branding the reforms “perhaps the greatest upheaval in the organisation’s history,” she argued that GPs were in no position to take over control of the NHS budget.

“An organisation responsible for £100 billion needs people who seriously understand accountancy and, trust me, GPs do not,” she wrote.

“If Monitor, the new regulator, is filled with competition economists with a zeal for imposing competition at every opportunity, then the NHS could be changed beyond recognition.”