Government launches listening panel to save NHS reforms

Former Royal College of GPs chair Steve Field will head a new panel to consider objections to the NHS reforms as the government tries to win over critics.

Former Royal College of GPs chair Steve Field will head a new panel to consider objections to the NHS reforms as the government tries to win over critics.

According to the BBC, he will be joined on the NHS Future Forum by Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s chief executive, Geoff Alltimes, who is a former social services director.

Its remit will be to listen to concerns over government plans to transfer much of the NHS budget to GP commissioning consortia, open up health provision to competition and set up health and well-being boards in councils to oversee local commissioning.

It will report back within two months.

Its establishment comes after health secretary Andrew Lansley announced a “pause” in the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill following mounting criticism about the speed of the reforms, the accountability of the consortia, the power of the well-being boards, and competition in the NHS.

Earlier this week, adults’ and children’s directors warned of the danger to joint-working initiatives if the Bill is not amended.

Lansley said the delay would allow the chance to “pause, listen, reflect and improve” and confirmed the panel would look at issues surrounding competition, accountability and patient involvement.

At the panel launch in Surrey today, prime minister David Cameron said: “Where there are good suggestions to improve the legislation, those changes will be made. But it is only through modernisation that can we protect the NHS and ensure the country has a truly world-class health service.”

However, Labour’s shadow health secretary, John Healey, voiced doubts this was a true listening exercise.

“While they claim to be listening, the Tory-led government is ploughing on with their NHS reorganisation,” he said.

Dr Clare Gerada, Field’s successor as chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), said: “It is time to address the concerns given to them in about 6,000 responses from groups including the RCGP, the British Medical Association, charities, patient groups, academic and public bodies, MPs and others. We know the prognosis; it is now time to apply the treatment, by reforming this bill.”

According to the BBC, other names expected on the panel will include Stephen Bubb, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, Julie Moore, chief executive of University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust, and Kathy Moore, medical director at NHS East Midlands.

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