David Cameron and Nick Clegg come out in support of embattled health secretary Andrew Lansley
The government has conceded a fresh raft of amendments to its NHS reforms despite the prime minister and his Lib Dem deputy coming out to defend the embattled health secretary, Andrew Lansley.
Downing Street launched an offensive, dismissing a call by the Lib Dem deputy party leader, Simon Hughes, for Lansley to leave office. The prime minister's spokesman said: "It's not an issue for Simon Hughes. The government is fully behind the health bill."
Hours later Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, told the BBC: "Andrew Lansley is the architect of the NHS bill. He cares passionately about the NHS. He's the right man for the job and he must see it through."
Despite such support the government made, according to Labour, "major concessions" on the health bill concerning the training of doctors. Ministers accepted an amendment which will force private providers of NHS services to give staff certain levels of training and education to head off fears that they could offer cheaper services by having less qualified workers.
The bill has suffered two defeats in the House of Lords and in the light of such reversals it appears that ministers are picking their fights more carefully.
In the Lords, the government was also questioned about the role of the management consultancy firm McKinsey in helping to frame the bill following a report in the Mail on Sunday claiming that senior staff at the NHS body Monitor, whose role under the plans would include regulating healthcare contracts, had been "lavishly" entertained at the company's expense.
Labour's Lady Royall said the company seemed "to be setting the rules in the health bill and benefiting from the outcome".
Earl Howe responded saying that "I know of no such impropriety. There are very strict rules … on declaring hospitality. If I discover any substance I will write and place a copy in the library. I very much doubt that I will find any substance."
He added that between 2006 and 2010 McKinsey got £30m in work from the Labour government.
Lansley has also broken his silence over his reforms, penning an article for Health Service Journal in which he says competition in the NHS will bring in innovation and compares health to the changing face of music. "After all, in any other sector, it is the thousands of individual decisions to adopt a new technology – from, say, cassettes to compact discs to mp3 players – which combine to sweep away less effective services."
Andy Burnham, Labour's shadow health secretary, said the article revealed Lansley's "real agenda for the NHS – to turn it from a national, collaborative health service into a competitive, market-based system." The Guardian