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Missing: one very radical health bill

By Richard Hoey

Andrew Lansley had been expected to unveil his NHS legislation by November, but it's now been delayed until the New Year, says Pulse editor By Richard Hoey

What exactly has happened to health secretary Andrew Lansley's radical health bill?

GPs have been waiting with increasingly bated breath for the details of his commissioning plans, but they stubbornly refuse to arrive.

The bill was originally chalked in for October, then widely anticipated in November, and as recently as the beginning of this month, Mr Lansley was still expressing hope that it would be unveiled before Christmas. It's not going to happen.

The Department of Health is refusing to confirm any details of the planned timetable, but I've heard from a senior source that it has been put back until the New Year, as some very searching questions are asked about it.

Apparently both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are querying the practicality of the plans, and as many as eight or nine coalition MPs are saying they could vote against them.

It all adds up to a distinctly edgy period for Mr Lansley, with a real feeling that Dr Clare Gerada's explosive entrance as RCGP chair has unsettled what had been expected to be a relatively smooth transition from white paper to legislation.

Watch out for that the BMA does next. Apparently, council members have already passed a motion backing Dr Gerada, but it's unlikely they will be satisfied with applauding the actions of others for too long.

The spotlight may be firmly on Mr Lansley right now, but GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman and BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum will presumably re-enter the limelight before too long.

The health bill has gone missing for the time being. The two most senior GPs at the BMA cannot afford to do the same.

By Richard Hoey, Pulse editor