Prime Minister defends NHS reforms

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Prime Minister defends NHS reforms

1st February 2011

Defending the proposed NHS changes, David Cameron spoke yesterday of concern within his own family over the government's planned reforms of the health service.

Mr Cameron publicly admitted that even his cardiologist brother-in-law was unconvinced by the changes and worried that too much power was being given to GPs with hospitals being disadvantaged as a result.

Jacqui Hayat, a medical negligence specialist with Fentons Solicitors LLP, said that in a recent online poll by the Royal College of General Practitioners, more than half of the 1,800 GPs surveyed said they were concerned that the proposed changes would not lead to improvements in patient care.

"It is absolutely crucial that the most important issue here is that of patient care," said Jacqui, a partner with the firm. "Despite levels of opposition within the medical community continuing to swell by the day - in particular with regard to the government's plans to hand £80bn of NHS spending to family doctors to commission treatment directly from hospitals - it is pretty clear that reform is needed and change will occur. It is therefore paramount that during this period of immense upheaval, we ensure that patient care remains our primary concern and that those in need of treatment are not subjected to any potentially disastrous delays as a result."

While MPs prepared to debate the governments Health and Social care Bill yesterday amid increasing criticism from unions and ranks of encamped health workers protesting outside Parliament, Mr Cameron rejected claims that the reforms would amount to privatisation of the service - free at the point of delivery since its founding in 1948 - claiming that inaction could prove devastating. Emphasising the urgent need to cut bureaucracy and waste the Prime Minister stressed that without reform the health service would become 'increasingly unaffordable.'

"There is huge concern amongst the unions who claim the greatest threat to the NHS is the reform programme itself," said Jacqui, "with many GPs, patients, clinicians, charities and MPs all concerned about the speed in which the government is trying to rush through a massively complex Bill containing 280 clauses without sufficient scrutiny."

In response to Labour claims that local hospitals will have work taken away from them by GPs as a result of private companies undercutting local hospital services, Mr Cameron cited the fact that GP-led commissioning, patient choice, payment by results and Foundation Trusts have all existed in one form or another over the last 15 years and that the NHS has always worked with a range of charities, social enterprises and private companies.

"While any move to improve patient care must of course be welcomed," said Jacqui, "it is important to remember that with reform on this scale, it is impossible to accurately predict what kind of results will come about from such enormous change.

"As it is likely to be many years before we can fully assess the success or failure of these proposals we must in the meantime do everything we possibly can to ensure that the immediate impact on patients - those people at the very heart of this process - is kept to an absolute minimum."

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Read more at Sky News