The Government’s U-turn on NHS reform risks being a “Trojan horse” to slip original Conservative proposals “through the back door”, a Westcountry Liberal Democrat MP has warned.
The warning, issued by West Cornwall MP Andrew George, came as an expert report claimed Government plans must undergo significant changes.
The NHS Future Forum suggested the Health and Social Care Bill, which is “on pause” on its passage through Parliament, should be amended to ease fears that the cherished service is being privatised.
But Mr George, who sits on the Health Select Committee, claimed the Tories “cannot be trusted” with the NHS and cautioned Lib Dem colleagues against celebrating before full details emerged. Reports suggested Nick Clegg was hailing “victory” in forcing changes to the Bill.
The MP for the St Ives constituency said that without reversing proposed new powers of NHS watchdog Monitor it “merely becomes a Trojan horse to re-introduce all of the same damaging Tory policies through the back door later on”.
He said: “I’m afraid we can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.”
The beefed-up role of Monitor was at the heart of concerns that Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s reform would increase competition between the NHS and private companies.
As mapped out originally, Monitor’s primary duty was to promote competition. But the Future Forum said its role should be “significantly diluted”, arguing it should not be an “economic regulator”.
The report also stated private firms should not be allowed to “cherry pick” patients and “the Government should not seek to increase the role of the private sector as an end in itself”.
GP consortia, who will take control of £60 billion of the NHS budget in place of local health trusts, the key aspect of Mr Lansley’s reforms, must take advice from different professionals, including hospital doctors, it added.
Future Forum also said the deadline of 2013 for consortia to take on commissioning should be scrapped. The Government is expected to respond today.
The Bill has attracted widespread criticism, but David Cameron has told the WMN the reform would improve the health service in the South West.
Sarah Wollaston, a GP and Conservative MP for Totnes, said: “I am glad that promoting integration, improving quality and supporting choice have been recognised as being the top priority for Monitor rather than promoting competition.”