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Listening exercise was ‘flawed’, says prominent Future Forum member

The Government should stop using its ‘flawed' listening exercise as a ‘political tool' to drive through the health bill, a crossbench peer and member of the Future Forum has warned.

Speaking to Pulse after his speech to the RCGP conference in Liverpool, Lord Victor Adebowale, the CEO of social care provider Turning Point, said the Government's Future Forum process was 'flawed', left too late and given too scant resources to address key flaws in the health reforms.

Lord Adebowale said that the recent vote in the House of Lords supporting the bill, meant the Government can drive the health bill through ‘unscathed' as crossbench input will be limited in further votes. However, he warned the Government that any moves to drive the health bill through without further amendments would be ‘a pyrric victory'.

Lord Adebowale said: ‘There is a race against time with the bill. Public disquiet isn't meeting the ability of the politicians to explain what the bill is about and why it is being done. People will see the impact from the cuts before the see any benefit from the bill.'

‘Steve Field has done a good job leading the process but the listening exercise hasn't been big enough, quick enough or well resourced enough. It's always a good idea to listen at the start of a consultation, not the end.'

'The listening exercise shouldn't be used as a political tool. If it is going to be meaningful it has to tell the truth, it cannot paper over the cracks and be wheeled out every time a minister wants to say "we've listened".'

Lord Adebowale  also said he shared concerns voiced by RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada this morning that the growing influence of marketisation could damage NHS care.

‘I share Dr Gerada's concerns,' he said. ‘There is already a market and competition exists, let's not fool ourselves. But the question is, is the Health and Social Care Bill a means to introduce a pure market philosophy in the same way that has been introduced to, say, energy utility companies?'

‘We all know where that has led – ever increasing bills and very little concern for the experience of the customer. If that was to happen in healthcare it would be horrible and already there are creeping examples of that happening.'

‘The cynical politician would say "the public don't understand the NHS anyway, they won't care" but let me tell you the public will care when it lands on their doorstep.'