Lansley may be listening but it’s business as usual at the Dept. of Health

Andrew Lansley today launched a listening exercise designed to ease the mounting concerns regarding his NHS shake up. However, whilst Cameron and Co. travel the country “listening” the restructuring will race on regardless.

Andrew Lansley today launched a listening exercise designed to ease the mounting concerns regarding his NHS shake up. However, whilst Cameron and Co. travel the country “listening” the restructuring will race on regardless.

The reforms actually began in earnest on October 21st when the health secretary announced a GP commissioning pathfinder scheme.

The scheme was intended to:

“…identify and support groups of practices who are keen to make faster progress in taking on the new roles.”

At last count 220 consortia had begun undertaking commissioning work covering 45.7 million people across the country. This means 87 per cent of the population is currently covered by a commissioning regime which has yet to receive parliamentary consent and has been suspended due to widespread concern.

Despite the absence of democratic consent, Mr Lansley has awarded his pathfinders wide ranging powers. He said:

“The groups selected, known as pathfinders, will work together to manage their local budgets and commission services for patients direct with other NHS colleagues and local authorities.”

The signing on of these GPs has been much trumpeted by the government as a signal of support from the medical community. The Tories will be disappointed to learn the rush to sign up has been out of compulsion rather than choice.

A poll undertaken by Pulse of 450 GPs has shown that 45% of those involved in the pathfinders oppose the principle of GP commissioning.

In a striking metaphor, one GP compared the implementation of the reforms to the sinking of the titanic, saying:

“Just because passengers got in lifeboats on the Titanic did not mean that they supported the ship sinking.”

Determined to do a tour de force of democratic ignorance Mr Lansley has also failed to ensure the Pathfinders will be subject to proper scrutiny. Each of the 220 has a fund of £2 per head to help them develop their consortia.

However, in response to a parliamentary question asking who would be monitoring the expenditure the government responded:

“We have no plans to monitor expenditure centrally on the general practitioner (GP) consortia pathfinder programme.”

Even Norman Tebbit and the right wing think tank Policy Exchange have joined the calls for the government to slow down. Although it appears Mr Lansley has bowed to pressure his announcement today has slowed the parliamentary process rather than the reorganisation.

Whilst Lansley, Cameron and Clegg tour the country trying to ‘sell’ their NHS reforms the Department of Health will press ahead. Mr Lansley may be listening but he is clearly not learning.

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