Tory MPs breaking ranks over NHS reforms

By Ian Dunt

The government’s much-criticised NHS reforms faced a new crisis today, when Tory MPs started to rebel over the plans.

Stephen Dorrell, Tory MP and chairman of the Commons health committee, used an interview to suggest the move would be undemocratic.

As a former health minister and health secretary, and with a mandate from other MPs as chair of the health committee, Mr Dorrell’s views carry considerable weight in Westminster.

The reforms would open the NHS to more competition from private providers and hand commissioning decisions to GPs’ consortia.

Mr Dorrell pointed out that the GPs consortia would control budgets much larger than those of most local councils.

“Would we contemplate district councils meeting in private without public access to papers and proper minutes and declarations of interest? Of course not,” he told the Financial Times.

“It is self-evident that there has to be proper governance.”

The comments could not come at a worse time for the government, which has been struggling to keep its health and social care bill afloat amid increasingly bitter opposition from doctors, NHS workers, medical experts and opposition parties.

A report from Mr Dorrell’s committee on Monday concentrated exclusively on the constitution of the GPs consortia, suggesting they should be expanded to include nurses, medicinal experts and at least one elected local figure, such as a councillor or a local mayor.

Mr Dorrell is not the first Tory MP to speak out against the plans.

Writing in the Mirror this morning, famously right-wing Tory grandee Norman Tebbit also hit out at the plans as a repeat of mistakes of the past.

“In my time I have seen many efforts to create competition between state-owned airlines, car factories and steel makers. They all came unstuck,” he wrote.

“The unfairnesses were not all one way and they spring from the fact that state-owned and financed businesses and private sector ones are different animals.”

Last month Dr Sarah Wollaston, Tory MP for Totnes in Devon, said the government plans would “shackle [the NHS] to an unelected economic regulator”.