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‘Political fix’ to save health bill

A ‘political fix’ has been done to ensure the Health and Social Care Bill passes through the House of Lords, crossbench peer and former NHS chief executive Lord Nigel Crisp has said.

The controversial legislation moves to the upper house next week and was thought to face significant opposition from Liberal Democrat peers. However, Lord Crisp told the Healthcare Efficiency Through Technology Expo in London that he understood that the leaderships of the two coalition partners had ‘done a deal’ and that he expected the bill to become law.

The Department of Health permanent secretary and NHS chief executive form 2000 to 2006 told the gathering: ‘I think there will be an awful lot of debate and it will slow it down but the political fix has been done and I also think that the NHS probably wants to get on with it, the NHS wants some certainty.’

 He added: ‘I think it will go through because the political fix has been done the leaderships have done a deal and the Lib Dems, apart from Shirley Williams, will vote with the government.’

The peer said that he would himself focus on trying to tackle what he perceived as being a conflict of interest for GPs in the new arrangements and the on the fact that primary care would be commissioned nationally.

Lord Crisp said: ‘I will be focusing on three or four key issues I want to get changed: one of those is around the secretary of state’s powers; another one around GPs and conflict of interest which is significant; another one about improving primary care – why is primary care being commissioned from the centre when it is the most local service of all? I will be picking up particular issues and others will do the same.’

He was also dismissive of today’s open letter to peers, published in today’s Daily Telegraph, signed by over 300 public health experts calling on the health bill to be withdrawn. The doctors warn that the reforms will ‘erode the NHS’s ethical foundations’, damage patient care and undermine trust in the medical profession.

Lord Crisp said: ‘Scores of people write letters every week protesting about this and that to do with the health service. As chief executive of the NHS I got them signed by hundreds about every third day.’