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Cameron defends health secretary and reforms as party leaders clash in Commons

David Cameron has rallied round embattled health secretary Andrew Lansley at Prime Minister's Questions and launched a staunch defence of the health bill,citing the fact that 95% of GPs are involved in ‘implementing' the NHS reforms as evidence of the profession's support.

Speaking in the House of Commons earlier today Mr Cameron faced down fierce criticism of the health bill from Labour leader Ed Miliband and said Mr Lansley's career prospects were ‘a lot better' than the opposition leader's.

Mr Miliband said the PM had ‘broken his word' by imposing a top down reorganisation of the NHS and urged the Government to heed warnings from the RCGP that the reforms would cause ‘irreparable damage' to patient care and jeopardise the NHS. The Labour leader said the Prime Minister knew the health bill was ‘a complete disaster' and pointed to a report in The Times that claimed No 10 aides had briefed journalists Mr Lansley ‘should be taken out and shot' for his botched handling of the reforms.

Mr Miliband said: ‘[The Prime Minister] knows this bill is a complete disaster. That is why his aides are briefing that the health secretary should be taken out and shot. It is a disaster. The reality of this bill is this: the doctors know it is bad for the NHS, the nurses know it is bad for the NHS and patients know it is bad for the NHS. Every day he fights for this bill, trust for him on the NHS ebbs away.'

But the Prime Minister hit back by defending the Government's record on cutting NHS bureaucracy and attacking Labour's record on the NHS.

Mr Cameron said:  ‘I've got to tell him [Mr Miliband] that the career prospects for my right honourable friend [Mr Lansley] are a lot better than his. This is not a campaign to save the NHS, it is a campaign to save his leadership.'

Mr Cameron hit back at claims that GPs did not back the bill by saying: ‘Today 95% of the country is covered by GPs that are not actually supporting our reforms but are implementing them.'

Earlier the Labour leader had called on the Prime Minister to listen to calls from RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada to drop the bill. The mention of Dr Gerada was met with groans among the Tory backbenches, prompting Mr Miliband to say: ‘So when the people they want to put at the heart of the NHS say things about their bill they just groan. It says it all.'