PM won’t abandon NHS reform ‘challenge’

By Alex Stevenson

David Cameron has insisted he is "doing the right thing" in sticking with the coalition's NHS reforms in a turbulent prime minister's questions.

Leader of the opposition Ed Miliband attacked Mr Cameron's "pride and arrogance" in refusing to back down in the face of fresh calls for the health and social care bill to be shelved.

He said the prime minister was "out of touch" for not heeding criticism from the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of GPs and other health worker bodies.

"If he wants to hear the voice of doctors and nurses across our NHS, why doesn't he listen?" he asked.

Mr Cameron responded by quoting an enthuasist for the reforms from Doncaster, after joking he had learned that "when it comes to the NHS you should expect a second opinion".

He offered a broader defence of the government's record in the NHS, claiming the health service had treated 100,000 patients since the general election, hired 4,000 new doctors, made £7 billion of efficiency savings and cut inpatient and outpatient waiting times.

The last point was directly contradicted by Mr Miliband, who said waiting lists were up while morale was down.

"This is a bill nobody wants," the Labour leader continued.

"It's opposed by the doctors, the nurses and the patients. Before the election he said no more top-down organisations. Isn't it time he kept at least one promise?"

Mr Miliband called on Mr Cameron to "put aside his pride and arrogance and drop this unnecessary and unwanted bill".

The prime minister responded: "I know that he panics and backs down at the first sign of a trade union saying no, but this government doesn't!"

He then underlined the government's commitment to press on with the reforms, telling MPs: "If you say the private and voluntary sectors should play a greater role, of course you face a challenge. But that is what doing the right thing is sometimes all about."