Thursday News Review

Cameron embarrassed by Lansley’s failure to build reform support

NHS chiefs are urging ministers to rethink their health service shakeup because the speed and scale of the radical restructuring could damage patient care and cause financial problems. The government’s failure to persuade health professionals that its proposals are needed is destabilising the NHS and alienating staff, the NHS Confederation warns. It represents 95% of the service’s employers, such as the bosses of hospitals, primary care trusts and ambulance services. In a new paper, the confederation says that the coalition should rethink its insistence that trusts be abolished in 2013 and replaced by consortiums of GPs to commission patients’ care. Instead, the trusts should be allowed to continue and the new consortiums be given the freedom to develop slowly then gradually acquire control over treatment budgets, in what would be a major U-turn for the health secretary,Andrew Lansley. The confederation’s intervention comes amid intense government discussions involving David Cameron about how to improve the health and social care bill after the Liberal Democrat spring conference’s call for major changes. Lansley has caused growing concern among coalition colleagues by failing to win over public opinion, or any major health or medical organisation, by insisting on a big bang approach to change in the NHS.- the Guardian

I know it is wise not to believe everything you read in the papers, but if I were Andrew Lansley, I would not like what I see. There is enough around, as his officials will be muttering nervously to each other this morning, to suggest David Cameron is about to cut him adrift. By this I do not mean that he faces the axe in the reshuffle, though it is not impossible. What I do mean is that the Prime Minister’s political instincts finally appear to be kicking in, and he is seeking to avert the car crash Lansley has inadvertently caused. A succession of ministers has already learned that the Prime Minister tends to let them get on with it, pays scant attention to detail during policy planning, but then finds he has to step in. It is becoming harder and harder to find an expert voice or a vested interest (sometimes the two are combined) who thinks the non-mandated reforms will do anything other than real damage to healthcare. Cameron has had his jibe at the BMA as being just another trade union, but beneath the bravado, he is getting worried, and looking to make change. – Alistair Campbell

Warsi under fire again for AV comments

Baroness Warsi, the Conservative Party chairman, was accused of scoring a spectacular own goal last night in a speech about the British National Party, provoking calls from some Tory MPs for David Cameron to move her in a summer reshuffle. Senior Conservatives joined Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians in criticising Lady Warsi after she claimed that a Yes vote in the referendum on electoral reform would boost the prospects of the BNP. They pointed out that the BNP was on the same side as the Tories in opposing a switch to the alternative vote (AV) in the 5 May referendum. Her critics accused her of giving the BNP credibility and publicity – the very things she argued that AV would provide for the far-right party. One senior Tory MP said: “It looks as though she didn’t think it through. There’s a growing feeling that she should be moved to a job as a departmental minister.” – the Independent

Cameron loses it at PMQs

David Cameron’s loss of temper with Ed Balls, who was barracking him at Prime Minister’s Questions, instantly turned an unmemorable session into one that will enter the folklore. On the substance of the clash between the principals, I thought Ed Miliband got the better of the Prime Minister on tuition fees, but lost on police numbers. It is extraordinary that Cameron has not decided a line to take on what is for him the presentational disaster of all but two universities that have announced fee levels opting for the £9,000-a-year maximum. I speculated recently that the Government would change the policy and say that, as nearly everyone was opting for the maximum, it would be brought down to, say, £7,500. But today Cameron simply fumbled on. – the Independent

According to Mr Balls’ office, the shadow chancellor had been shouting across the chamber at the prime minister to accuse him of not answering MPs’ questions. He had waved a glass of water at Mr Cameron to suggest he should “calm down”. “We are pretty surprised he snapped. It clearly touched a nerve,” said Mr Balls’s spokesman. But a No 10 spokesman said Mr Cameron had been “speaking for the nation” in his comments and that Labour should have “better things” to do then to kick up a fuss about the exchange. The weekly Commons clash had got off to a good-natured start, with Mr Cameron congratulating Labour leader Ed Miliband on his forthcoming marriage to partner Justine, and the two men swapping jokes about organising a stag night. But it became increasingly ill-tempered, as Mr Cameron laid into Mr Miliband’s speech to the TUC anti-cuts rally in London’s Hyde Park on Saturday.- the BBC

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