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NHS reform pause 'not a gimmick'

Nick Clegg has said the listening exercise over NHS reforms is "not a gimmick" and the Government will make significant changes to legislation.

The Deputy Prime Minister talked to patients about concerns over the changes - which would put groups of GPs in charge of commissioning services - while the architect of the shake-up, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, will meet potential GP consortia.

The events are the first of a series of forums set up after the Government declared a "pause" in the parliamentary passage of the legislation implementing the package amid fierce criticism.

Meanwhile, the Government faces accusations from MPs of having "no control" over many of the costs of the reforms.

A report by the influential Public Accounts Committee warned that pushing through the changes while seeking £20 billion in efficiency savings could put patient care at risk.

The concerns were raised in a report into the controversial changes that are threatening to drive a wedge between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

One of Mr Clegg's closest advisers, Norman Lamb, has already hinted he could quit unless implementation of the package is slowed down.

Speaking at the forum held at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, Mr Clegg admitted the coalition had not "successfully won the argument".

"We haven't yet persuaded enough people in the NHS and elsewhere that what we're trying to do is good for the NHS," he said. "We've taken this unusual step to do precisely that. To stop, and to listen, and to learn.

"Let me stress this, it's not a gimmick, it's not a PR exercise. We will make changes, we'll make significant and substantive changes to the legislation which at the moment is - if you like - it's suspended in the House of Commons in order to make sure that those who perhaps develop some very serious and legitimate doubts about some of the details of the plans feel that it's now on the right track again and then we can move forward together."

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