Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

NHS Rethink Is Proof That We Can Listen and Learn, Says Cameron

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

NHS Rethink Is Proof That We Can Listen and Learn, Says Cameron

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Murphy Political Editor

DAVID CAMERON put a brave face on the rewriting of his NHS reforms today by hailing the changes as an example of a listening government.

"We have listened, we have learned and we are improving our plans for the NHS," the Prime Minister declared in a speech at Guy's Hospital.

However, there was Tory anger as the health service revolution was put into the slow lane, with the Health and Social Care Bill being sent back to its committee stage in Parliament, meaning months of delays.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg made the most of the moment to reassure his party activists that their views about the Conservative-led proposals had been acted on.

Openly confirming that the changes were as much about party horse-trading as policies, he said: "The NHS debate has never just been about policy.

It's about our values, our identity.

That's why there's been so much passion, so much feeling."

Mr Cameron insisted that "the fundamentals" of the reforms had been saved. That meant more patient choice and "more power to doctors and nurses" and better access to the best services.

He denied claims that he had carried out a "humiliating U-turn" or the opposite, that it was "a big PR stunt". "This is your NHS and we are going to put you in the driving seat," he told voters.

Mr Clegg went on: "We listened and now we have a plan I hope we can all get behind." Announcing that it would go back to committee, he said there would be "no rushing ... no arbitrary deadlines".

However, despite the show of unity, the coalition was under renewed strain as Conservative Right-wingers protested bitterly that a set of reforms agreed by the Cabinet had been watered down, apparently to appease their coalition partners.

One Tory MP said he had been told the climbdowns were necessary to prevent the Lib-Dems voting against a new map of boundaries when it is put to Parliament in 2013. The MP said: "The future of the NHS should not be sacrifices for short-term political gain or a deal with another party."

Mr Cameron's allies believe that voters will be reassured that the Government listened to critics. …

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