Wednesday News Review

More opposition to Lansley as BMA vote against health reforms

GPs could more than double their income to £300,000 a year under health secretary Andrew Lansley‘s plans for the NHS, according to an analysis for the Guardian – sparking calls from top doctors for the government to reverse controversial policies that would appear to reward physicians who ration care. The revelation comes after the British Medical Association voted to scrap the “dangerous” health bill and demanded that Lansley rethink his radical pro-market changes to the NHS. GPs are central to the government’s programme, and by 2013 will have to band together into consortiums before being handed £80bn of NHS funds to commission care for their patients. At the heart of many doctors’ concerns lies the possibility that, under the reforms, GPs’ pay will be linked to rationing patient care; in essence, being rewarded for saving the taxpayer money. Doctors’ leaders warned that the public would view as “unethical” any move towards a GP’s assessment of a person’s medical need being coloured by a profit motive. – the Guardian

Doctors’ leaders yesterday stopped short of a vote of no confidence in Health Secretary Andrew Lansley but demanded that he halt his plans to reform the NHS and condemned his failure to act on their concerns. In what is turning out to be a torrid week for the Health Secretary, the British Medical Association (BMA) called on him to withdraw the Health and Social Care Bill, now going through Parliament, and warned that it would lead to the “fragmentation” and “privatisation” of the NHS. However, the BMA failed to back a vote of no confidence and stopped short of condemning its leadership for pursuing a policy of “critical engagement” with the Government rather than outright opposition to the Bill, after an appeal from the chairman, Hamish Meldrum, not to “tie our hands”. – the Independent

No 10 responded to the British Medical Association vote on NHS reforms by describing the general meeting as unrepresentative of the BMA membership, adding it was disappointed it had decided to oppose reforms it had previously supported. Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, has insisted he will only be making minor changes to the language of the health and social care bill in response to the Liberal Democrat decision to oppose it. A discussion is now under way inside the coalition on how to respond, with some influential cabinet figures arguing Lansley has to recast a bill that is losing support daily. Labour is to stage a debate on health on Wednesday with a motion broadly designed to mirror the Liberal Democrats‘ objections to the bill, which were passed in a weekend motion at its conference in Sheffield. Liberal Democrat MPs met on Tuesday to decide how to vote in the Commons debate, but are not expected to vote with Labour. – the Guardian

Ed will say “Yes”

Ed Miliband will make his strongest intervention yet in the referendum on the alternative vote (AV) when he addresses a Labour Yes rally on Wednesday, urging voters not to reduce the referendum to a verdict onNick Clegg‘s broken promises. The Labour leader will claim that AV “will restore the balance of power in favour of voters”. Following a dispute this week with Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader and deputy prime minister, over sharing a joint platform, he will call on Labour supporters to look beyond Clegg’s performance in government and instead concentrate on the substantive issue of voting reform. Miliband’s speech comes as 17 former senior ambassadors write to the Guardian expressing support for AV, rejecting the argument that first past the post produces strong government. Labour figures addressing the rally in London include Neil Kinnock, Oona King and Ken Livingstone. David Cameron, in a sign of the high stakes involved, reassured 60 Tory MPs that he is dedicating the resources necessary to ensure victory on 5 May for the No campaign. – the Guardian

Cameron: how to lose friends and alienate people

David Cameron’s assertion in his spring conference speech that his officials are “enemies of enterprise” has aggravated the Sir Humphreys of this world. Paul WaughBen Brogan and James Kirkupall have excellent spin-offs from Sue Cameron’s account of the smouldering atmosphere at a recent meeting of permanent secretaries. And Iain Martin puts it succinctly on Twitter: ‘Duff politics attacking civil service, down the ages a lazy excuse for ministers not mastering their depts.’ Beyond Iain’s point about inept ministers, this incident also seems typical of Number 10’s frequently faulty communications strategy, which so exasperates departmental special advisors. Attacking senior civil servants is ‘courageous’ to say the least, especially when the government is intent on delivering manifold reforms at once. It’s also a reminder of how divisive Cameron and his immediate circle can be, recalling their sometimes voluble contempt for underperforming ministers and the leadership’s often sour relations with the backbenches. – the Spectator

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