Health Secretary Andrew Lansley defends NHS reorganization
London (UK) – Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has defended his reorganization of the National Health Service (NHS), describing a highly critical report by MPs as “unfair” to the health service considering it is delivering efficiency savings and improvements for patients.
The report on public expenditure by a panel of MPs said the NHS reform process ‘continues to complicate the push for efficiency’ and had caused ‘disruption and distraction that hinders the ability of organizations to consider truly effective ways of reforming service delivery and releasing savings.’
Criticizing the move to GP-led commissioning, the Commons Health Select Committee report said overhaul of the NHS was undermining targets to cut spending by 20 billion pounds by 2014-15 without cutting vital services.
“I think the select committee’s report is not only out of date but it is also, I think, unfair to the NHS, because people in the NHS, in hospitals and in the community services are very focused on ensuring that they deliver the best care to patients and that they live within the financial challenges that clearly all of us have at the moment,” Lansley told ITV Daybreak.
“I am afraid the evidence points to the fact that they are doing that extremely well.”
In a stinging criticism of Lansley’s reorganisation, the MPs’ report said there was a ‘marked disconnect between the concerns expressed by those responsible for delivering services and the relative optimism of the Government’ over achieving cuts.
The Department of Health also came under fire in the report for giving NHS bodies only weeks to prepare bids for 300 million pounds of capital funding over the Christmas period.
The attack is especially wounding as the committee is chaired by one of Lansley’s Tory predecessors, Stephen Dorrell, and is dominated by Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Lansley said the select committee had not offered specific evidence for its claims.
“Clearly someone can go around the country and say someone’s made the wrong decision… frankly, sometimes, they make the wrong decisions,” he said.
The MPs’ report comes days after all the major health unions – representing doctors, nurses and midwives – stated “outright opposition” to the Health and Social Care Bill being debated by Parliament.
The British Medical Association (BMA), the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges are also holding a summit on Thursday to discuss the Bill.
Lansley said the Health and Social Care Bill was supported in principle by many NHS professionals.
“There has been support for the principles of what we are doing, including from many of the professional organizations,” he said.
As part of an examination of the state of social care, the committee report said there was “precious little evidence of the urgency” required being given to integrating health and care services.
It expressed “deep concern” that out of 648 million pounds earmarked to improving the link between the two, 116 million pounds had been spent simply “sustaining existing eligibility criteria”.
The report called for urgent investigation of the possibility of “passporting” more NHS funds directly to the sector – and warned that more vulnerable people were losing out on state-funded help.
“In spite of Government assurances, local authorities are having to raise eligibility criteria in order to maintain social care services to those in greatest need,” it said.