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07-06-2011 | General practice | Article

Cameron restates support for Bill


Department of Health – Prime Minister on the Future of the NHS

David Cameron has restated his broad support for the Government's proposed NHS reforms, despite outlining some key changes to the Health Bill.

In a speech to health professionals at the University College London Hospital, the Prime Minister appeared to relax the 2013 deadline for GP consortia to take control of budgets, saying that consortia would take on commissioning only "when good and ready". He also confirmed that hospital clinicians will now be involved in commissioning services, although their exact role alongside GPs remains unclear.

In addition, Cameron announced the introduction of clinical senates to oversee regional health planning, apparently filling the void once strategic health authorities have been abolished.

And in a move to quell fears over privatisation, the health regulator Monitor will now have a duty to support integration of services and be "tasked with creating a genuine level playing field". The Prime Minister nevertheless reasserted a commitment to choice and competition as a means to drive up standards, maintaining that "every provider will need to meet the highest quality standards" and that there will be "fair competition, not cherry picking".

In five pledges at the end of his speech, he asserted that: universal coverage of healthcare will be maintained; there will be no "break up" of integrated care; waiting times will be kept low; NHS spending will not be cut; and there will be no "sell-off" of the NHS to the private sector.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chair of BMA Council, welcomed the Prime Minister's stated commitment to integrated NHS services, but voiced concern at the continued emphasis on competition.

"We would point to the many damaging effects its application in the NHS has had so far," he said. "While we obviously await the details of the Future Forum report, and the amendments to the Bill, today's speech is an indication of a significant step in the right direction."

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Caroline Price