Thursday News Review

Do we really back you Dave?

David Cameron faced embarrassment when medical leaders rejected his claim that they supported the government’s health reforms. The row came hours before the health and social care bill was approved by MPs, after Cameron hailed the profession’s support at prime minister’s questions. “Now you’ve got the Royal College of GPs, the physicians, the nurses, people working in the health service, supporting the changes we’re making,” he said. The bodies questioned the prime minister’s claim. Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, told the BBC: “While we acknowledge that the government has listened to our members in a number of areas, we still have very serious concerns about where these reforms leave a health service already facing an unprecedented financial challenge. At a time when the NHS needs to find £20bn in efficiencies, tackle waste, work harder to prevent ill-health, and deal with an ageing population, we are telling MPs this bill risks creating a new and expensive bureaucracy and fragmenting care.” Clare Gerada, chairwoman of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said: “The college supports putting clinicians at the centre of planning health services. However, we continue to have a number of concerns about the government’s reforms, issues we believe may damage the NHS or limit the care we are able to provide for our patients.” – the Guardian

Mr Cameron told MPs during prime minister’s questions on Wednesday that the RCGP, nurses and other health professionals were supportive of the NHS reform plans. His comments came as MPs prepared for a crucial second day of debates in the House of Commons on the Health Bill, ahead of a vote that will decide whether the Bill is passed. RCGP chairwoman Dr Clare Gerada said while the college supports putting clinicians at the centre of health service planning, it continues to have a ‘number of concerns’ about the government’s reforms. ‘As a college we are extremely worried that these reforms, if implemented in their current format, will lead to an increase in damaging competition, an increase in health inequalities, and to massively increased costs in implementing this new system. These concerns have been outlined and reiterated pre- and post-pause.’ Labour leader Ed Miliband said the prime minister was on a ‘different planet’ if he believed the health profession was on board with the NHS reform plans. He said: ‘Does he not read the newspaper? Only on Tuesday the BMA, RCGP and Royal College of Midwives all rejected his Bill. We are seeing a reckless and needless reorganisation of public services.’ – GP online

Right wingers frustrated at Lib Dem influence

Simmering concern among Conservative MPs about the Coalition Government’s direction boiled over yesterday as David Cameron was accused of making too many policy concessions to the Liberal Democrats. Tory backbenchers vented their anger at Prime Minister’s Questions amid concerns that Nick Clegg has forced Mr Cameron to water down policies on Europe, free schools, tax cuts, human rights, NHS reforms, elected police commissioners and abortion. Nadine Dorries, the Tory MP who proposed an amendment to the Bill, accused Mr Cameron of giving in to Liberal Democrat “blackmail” over abortion. She told the Commons that the Prime Minister was initially “very encouraging” about her move but was then placed in an “impossible position” by the Liberal Democrats. Ms Dorries was not amused and Labour accused Mr Cameron of being patronising towards women. Angela Eagle, a Shadow Cabinet member, said: “I thought that little comment about Nadine Dorries… was really nasty, premeditated and totally uncalled for.” One Tory MP added: “The Prime Minister’s behaviour was despicable. It was the worst of the Bullingdon [Club]. It was a total demolition of Nadine Dorries on a personal basis.” – the Independent

Right-wingers took the unusual step of protesting during Prime Minister’s Questions, reflecting annoyance that private complaints to No 10 have fallen on deaf ears. Mid Bedfordshire MP Nadine Dorries said: “Liberal Democrats make up 8.7 per cent of this Parliament and yet they seem to be influencing our free school policy, health, many issues and abortion. It’s about time [Mr Cameron] told the Deputy Prime Minister who is the boss.” Mark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood, called for a referendum on Britain’s position in the EU – contrasting the Prime Minister’s refusal to give one with Mr Clegg’s success in delaying elections for police commissioners. Senior backbench sources told the Standard that leading members of the party’s 1922 Committee have been warning Mr Cameron about simmering discontent since May. – Evening Standard

Sir Stuart Bell, the laziest MP in Britain?

Veteran Middlesbrough MP Sir Stuart Bell has come under fire from his local newspaper for failing to represent constituents. The Gazette reported that they had made more than 100 calls to Sir Stuart’s Westminster office and Middlesbrough home over the course of several months but received no response. The newspaper used several different landlines and mobile numbers to disguise where the calls were coming from. In contrast the newspaper rang other Teeside MPs, who all answered on the first attempt. Sir Stuart has not held a constituency meeting since he was physically threatened by a constituent in 1997. Despite this he has been re-elected six times, holding the seat since 1983. The Gazette said that the MP had claimed to meet members of the public by appointment instead and that he can be reached at any time by telephone. “Sir Stuart is paid an annual salary of £65,738 to serve as the town’s MP, and claimed £82,896 for staffing costs last year. Wife Lady Margaret was paid more than £35,000 to work as his office manager. But no-one appears to be available to answer the phone,” the newspaper added., a website which provides a public record of MPs appearances in parliament, shows Sir Stuart to have only spoken in 11 debates over the course of the last year, well below average. He has also only voted in 41.69% of parliamentary votes, substantially below his fellow Teeside MPs who have all voted in 75% or over. –

Getting in touch with Sir Stuart is the hot political talking point on Teesside. Yesterday the 73-year-old accused the local Evening Gazette of conducting a politically motivated campaign to unseat him after it reported the results of an investigation in which reporter Neil MacFarlane tried to speak to him on 100 occasions earlier this year. Despite phoning daily – 50 times to his constituency number and a similar amount at his Westminster office – he never managed to get through. The MP, who has claimed £82,896 in staffing costs, however insisted that the report was “a total mystery” and was yesterday readily fielding calls from journalists. Last night Labour sources said Ed Miliband was treating the allegations against Sir Stuart with the “uttermost seriousness”. If they are proved, they added, the Labour whip could be withdrawn. Pressure could also be put on Sir Stuart’s local party to deselect him. The latest allegations come after it emerged Sir Stuart had not held a surgery in Middlesbrough for 14 years and does not have a publicly accessible office in the town. – the Independent

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