Thursday News Review

BMA call for Health Bill to be scrapped as Clegg demands change

Nick Clegg will seek to maximise the Liberal Democrats‘ influence over the imminent changes to the government’s NHS plans with a major speech on Thursday setting out his party’s demands. The deputy prime minister will outline the substantial revisions he expects to see made to the health and social care bill to ensure that his MPs feel able to support it when it returns to parliament. He will also make clear why the NHS needs reform. Party sources say it will echo a keynote speech last week by David Cameron and endorse the prime minister’s view that, although some of health secretary Andrew Lansley’s proposals will be rethought, the service in England will still be expected to embrace far-reaching changes so it can cope with growing financial and clinical pressures. John Healey, shadow health secretary, will accuse Cameron of refusing to amend the bill enough to ensure that it does not harm healthcare. “David Cameron is a PR man looking for a PR answer. He must accept the problem is not the presentation of his NHS plans but the full-blown free market ideology behind them,” Healey will say in a speech to NHS, medical and health policy experts. “This Tory ideology is totally at odds with the ethos of the NHS and the essential way it works.” – the Guardian

In its response to the government’s listening exercise, the BMA said it is vital for the future of the NHS that the Bill is withdrawn, or ‘changed significantly’.  The BMA demanded a number of changes to the proposals, including putting an ‘explicit duty’ on commissioning consortia to involve doctors in secondary care, public health and academia.  It said: ‘The existing duty in the Bill on commissioning consortia to “obtain appropriate advice” is insufficient to ensure that the best clinical practice is enshrined in commissioning. ‘Clear guidance should be developed on models for how this can be achieved in practice, such as by developing clinical networks alongside the strategic and decision-making functions of commissioners.’ The BMA also called for economic regulator Monitor’s primary role to be amended to protecting and promoting high quality, integrated healthcare services, not promoting competition. It said the powers given to the NHS Commissioning Board are ‘inappropriate’ and the Board should be required to consult with consortia before making use of its powers. – GP Online

Osborne warned about pace of cuts

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which had previously given strong backing the Government’s plans to tackle the deficit, has warned that the UK should cut spending more slowly if the current slow rate of growth persists. OECD chief economist Pier Carlo Padoan said: “We see merit in slowing the pace of fiscal consolitdation if there is not so good news on the growth front.” Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls seized on the comments, saying it was “now time George Osborne listened to wise advice, looked at what is happening to the economy and thought again about the speed and scale of his cuts”. Business Secretary Vince Cable has warned that there were “hydrogen bombs” in the economy which could push it back into disaster. Dr Cable also said that governments had not “got to grips” with the country’s economic problems. – Politics Home

Cable warns of economic “hydrogen bombs”

The Business Secretary said other economic “hydrogen bombs” were “out there” and accused the Coalition and other governments of failing to “get to grips” with the threat. The remarks are likely to antagonise David Cameron, who leaves today for a G8 meeting in France with other world leaders, during which the economy is not expected to be high on the agenda. In an interview with the New Statesman magazine today , the Liberal Democrat Cabinet minister also rated his party at only “one or two” out of ten for its political acumen since the election. He said he did not think that Nick Clegg deserved “pity” but described the “relentlessly hostile” pressure the Deputy Prime Minister faces. But Mr Cable said he was most worried by the potential for a repeat of the recent global financial meltdown. – the Telegraph

Obama fails to back Coalition cuts

Barack Obama stopped short of endorsing the Coalition Government’s big spending cuts yesterday in a setback to David Cameron’s hopes of winning the President’s seal of approval. Although Mr Obama said the US and UK shared the same goals of securing economic growth and deficit reduction, he insisted that each country would tackle the problems in their different ways and at their own pace. He also suggested that nations would need the flexibility to change course if their strategy was not working – a so-called “Plan B”, which the Chancellor George Osborne refuses to contemplate. Speaking at a joint press conference next to Mr Cameron, the President said the success in pulling the world out of recession was in large part due to concerted action between the US, UK and other countries – a process in which Gordon Brown played a leading role. Admitting that the US and UK were cutting on a different timescale, Mr Obama said: “The nature of the debt and deficits are different. And as a consequence, the sequencing and pace may end up being different.” – the Independent

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