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Williams reignites NHS reforms row

The row over the Government's NHS reforms was reopened as Liberal Democrat grandee Baroness Williams warned that she still had "huge concerns" about the legislation.

Despite a series of concessions designed to assuage critics earlier in the summer, the influential Lib Dem peer said the battle over the Health and Social Care Bill was "far from over".

Her intervention, in an article for The Observer, comes as ministers prepare to bring the Bill back before the Commons on Tuesday and raises the prospect that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg still faces a Lib Dem revolt.

Amid widespread anger at the reforms among NHS professionals and patient groups, the Government conducted further consultation and announced revisions to the Bill in June.

Changes included including hospital doctors and nurses - not just GPs - on new commissioning consortia and scrapping an April 2013 deadline for the new boards to take over.

But Baroness Williams said: "Despite the great efforts made by Nick Clegg and (Lib Dem Health Minister) Paul Burstow I still have huge concerns about the Bill. The battle is far from over."

The peer said she still had concerns about the role of the private sector under the reforms. "I am not against a private element in the NHS, which may bring innovatory ideas and good practice, provided it is within the framework of a public service - complementary but not wrecking.

"But why have they tried to get away from the NHS as a public service, among the most efficient, least expensive and fairest anywhere in the world? Why have they been bewitched by a flawed US system which is unable to provide a universal service and is very expensive indeed?"

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "Claims that we aim to privatise the NHS amount to nothing more than ludicrous scaremongering. We have made it crystal clear, time and again, that we will never, ever, privatise the NHS.

"The reality is that we're giving more power and choice to patients over how they get treated, keeping waiting times low and cutting bureaucracy so more cash gets to the front line. We will not allow these lies to block the progress we want to achieve for patients."


From Belfast Telegraph