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'Dishcloth' Lansley attacked over 'bullying' of NHS staff while Clegg seeks further concessions

A round-up of the health news in the papers on Wednesday 22 February.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley's tactics against NHS staff who are critical of the reforms have led to accusations of ‘bullying' from the opposition.

This comes, the Guardian reports, after a senior doctor who signed a letter criticising the proposed changes was threatened with disciplinary action by his PCT, claiming he had breached the NHS code of conduct. Professor John Ashton, county medical officer for Cumbria, received a letter which told him it was ‘inappropriate for individuals to raise their personal concerns about the proposed government reforms'. Whether it's inappropriate is debatable, but the constant flow of criticism from within the NHS is definitely inconvenient for the Department of Health.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham was quick to pile in, askeing Mr Lansley in the commons yesterday if the trust's actions showed it was now policy ‘to threaten NHS staff with disciplinary action if they speak out about his reorganisation' and called the move a ‘new top-down bullying policy'.

A Telegraph opinion piece by Michael Deacon says Mr Lansley resembled a ‘depressed dishcloth' when answering questions in the commons yesterday. Mr Deacon says there is a lesson to be learned here for the Government: ‘If you want to reform the NHS, for heaven's sake don't let on. Millions of people are jumpily protective of it, and will assume any Tory reform spells danger.'

Speaking of depressed dishcloths, Nick Clegg is likely to demand more concessions over plans to increase competition within the NHS an attempt to head off ‘a new Liberal Democrat revolt', according to the Times (paywall).

Part three of the bill, which deals with competition, is the primary sticking point for Lib Dems and a call, tabled by Baroness Williams, at the next party conference in March for that section to be scrapped altogether is likely to be accepted by the grassroots. However, as the perennial man in the middle, Mr Clegg has not given his 100% support to the bill, or backed calls for part three to be scrapped altogether.

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