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Senior DH adviser attacks Number 10’s NHS reforms panel for ‘looking backwards’

By Gareth Iacobucci

Exclusive: A new group of health policy experts formed to advise the Prime Minister on NHS reform, which includes members from the consultancy firm McKinsey and KPMG, has come under fire from a leading GP adviser to the Department of Health.

The panel of experts, which is understood to have met for the first time last week, is expected to convene regularly over the coming months to offer advice to Number 10 on the future direction of NHS policy, although it is not thought to be advising specifically on the health bill.

But Dr James Kingsland, the Department of Health's special adviser on commissioning and a GP in Wallasey, Merseyside, questioned the make-up of the group, which he said lacked representation from GPs.

Sources say the group has been organised by Tony Blair's former advisor Paul Bate, who was appointed by David Cameron in March 2011, and includes two ex-NHS chief executives, Lord Crisp and Sir Ian Carruthers.

Nicolaus Henke of consultancy firm McKinsey, former DH commissioning chief Mark Britnell, now global head of health at KPMG, former executive chairman of Monitor Bill Moyes, and Nuffield Trust chief executive Jennifer Dixon are also understood be among the group's members.

But the group does not include health secretary Andrew Lansley, with speculation mounting over his future as he is apparently sidelined by the Government.

Dr Kingsland said the group lacked representation from primary care: 'It's an NHS from former times. It's interesting that they are looking backwards to see what the future's going to be like. There is a conspicuous lack of clinical outlook, and almost an absence of primary care.'

Dr Kingsland added that the group, which has been established in addition to the DH's listening panel chaired by former RCGP chair Professor Steve Field, could damage the momentum of Mr Lansley's reform agenda, and dampen the enthusiasm of commissioning enthusiasts.

Referring to both the Number 10 panel and the current 'listening exercise' on the health bill, Dr Kingsland said: 'Pausing too long will do no good to clinical commissioning, particularly the vanguard that you need to drive this. If we waste their enthusiasm and spirit it would be criminal. If we lose that, the reforms fail.'

Dr James Kingsland