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Lansley will be remembered as ‘the great reformer’ or ‘the great failure’, warns Conservative think tank

By Ian Quinn

The Government's plans for GP commissioning have been called into question by the oldest centre-right think tank in Britain, the Bow Group, which claims key strands of the reforms are unfeasible and risk creating a postcode lottery of healthcare.

A mainstream supporter of Conservative ideas since 1951, the Bow Group said today that whilst health secretary Andrew Lansley was to be applauded for his courage, the huge obstacles he faces persuaded it to caution against the proposals.

Mr Lansley would go down in history as the 'great reformer' if his risky venture worked, it added, but as 'the great failure' it went wrong.

The report questions the practicality of cutting management costs by more than 45% in four years as part of the Government's £20bn plus efficiency drive.

It backs Mr Lansley's call for the NHS to find new and innovative ways to put itself on a more economically sustainable footing, but warns there must be a greater stress on the quality of spending and the overall return on investment from the move to GP consortiums.

‘With an increased number of commissioning bodies, there is a greater likelihood of different approaches to the prioritisation of treatments and funding decisions,' adds the report. ‘This is likely to result in a postcode lottery with some consortia being more successful than others.'

‘In theory, with the new ability of patients to register with GPs away from their home territory, this should result in patients choosing the best practices and in turn help drive up standards. However, not all patients will be able to afford to move GPs and there is a danger that patients in deprived areas may be limited to their local consortium.'

‘If courage, minerals and boldness are a marker of policy success,' continues the report, the White Paper ‘would ‘score extremely high marks.'

‘For those who feared a meek and mild Government that would do nothing more than tinker and blinker with a discredited status quo, all fears have been allayed by this aspirational document. However, reformist ambition and radical intent are only one part of the equation. To put it bluntly, Andrew Lansley will either be remembered as the great reformer or the great failure.'

Health secretary Andrew Lansley: great reformer or great failure? Health secretary Andrew Lansley: great reformer or great failure?