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Cameron: ‘change is only option’

The prime minister has reaffirmed his commitment to GP commissioning consortia as a key reform to protect the NHS from future challenges and improve care in a speech today.

Speaking to health professionals at a London hospital today David Cameron tried to seize the initiative and move on from a weekend of difficult headlines for the proposals.

He said: ‘Last year, the health select committee said “PCT commissioning is widely regarded as the weakest link in the English NHS”, citing their “lack of clinical knowledge” in particular.’

‘This is what top-down control is doing to our NHS – and I believe it should change. Then there’s the inflexibility of the NHS – and this is what frustrates so many patients, and indeed nurses and doctors.’

Last week, Pulse reported that former RCGP chair Professor Steve Field, appointed by Cameron to chair the ‘listening exercise’ on the Government’s health reforms, is to push for major changes to the role of Monitor in promoting competition. The NHS Alliance also warned the Government GP consortia leads felt ‘betrayed’ by the Government’s delay in the reforms.

Then on Sunday the Observer reported that the senior Number 10 adviser Mark Britnell had told a conference that the NHS could be improved by charging patients and could be transformed into a ‘state insurance provider, not a state deliverer’ of care.

According to the newspaper, Mr Britnell, appointed to a Number 10 ‘kitchen cabinet’ advising Cameron on reforming the NHS, told executives from the private sector that future reforms would show ‘no mercy’ to the NHS and offer a ‘big opportunity’ to the for-profit sector.

Now Mr Cameron is trying to get the reforms back on track and prove that his party can be trusted with the NHS.

Cameron will say: ‘Sticking with the status quo and hoping we can get by with a bit more money is simply not an option. If we stay as we are, the NHS will need £130bn a year by 2015, meaning a potential funding gap of £20bn.’

‘There’s only one option we’ve got – and that is to change and modernise the NHS… to make it more efficient and more effective and, above all, more focused on prevention, on health, not just sickness. We save the NHS by changing it.’