NHS Reforms Attacked By ConHome
David Cameron has been urged by Tory cabinet ministers to scrap the government's controversial NHS reforms, according to influential grassroots party website ConHome.
The site has published an editorial criticising the NHS Health and Social Care Bill, warning that the legislation could cost the Conservatives the next election.
Editor Tim Montgomerie revealed that in the face of opposition from healthcare professionals and the public, "three Tory Cabinet ministers have now also rung the alarm bell".
"One was insistent the Bill must be dropped. Another said Andrew Lansley must be replaced. Another likened the NHS reforms to the poll tax. The consensus is that the prime minister needs an external shock to wake him to the scale of the problem," he said.
The comparison between NHS reforms and poll tax is particularly controversial, as the Conservative party policy in 1990 led to widespread riots in central London, with hundreds taking to the streets in protest. Margaret Thatcher, prime minister at the time, was forced to step down by the end of the year.
Speaking to Sky News on Friday morning, Montgomerie said that the changes he believed were needed in the NHS could be achieved "without this legislation".
"I feel what is going to happen because of the NHS bill is that every single thing that goes wrong in the NHS will be blamed on the coalitions reforms," he said.
"Even at this late stage I hope Cameron and Clegg will listen to this plea and kill the bill."
Cameron is said to have reaffirmed his support for the Health and Social Care Bill at a meeting with Lansley and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg earlier this week.
However in another embarrassment for the prime minister, he was forced to defend Lansley's cabinet position again on Wednesday after a Downing Street source allegedly said that the health secretary should be "taken out and shot."
The prime minister has been pressured to drop the Health and Social Care Bill by a number of influential groups. A poll of British Medical Journal (BMJ) readers found that more than 90% believe the reforms should be abandoned.
The Royal College of GPs has written to Cameron asking for the bill to be scrapped.
On Wednesday morning representatives from the Royal College of Nursing, BMA, Royal College of Midwives and Chartered Society of Physiotherapy wrote to the Guardian calling for the bill to be dropped.
The NHS Health And Social Care Bill has also suffered setbacks in the Lords after peers voted by 244 to 240, majority four, to emphasise the importance of mental health.
Montgomerie finishes the landmark piece with a damning verdict on NHS reforms, writing "It must be stopped before it's too late."
Speaking on Friday morning he called for Lansley to go, saying: "I think we need a new secretary of health to be the front person for this important area of public policy.
"I wrote this blog this morning because I think David Cameron, the feeling is, David Cameron isn't listening enough to internal party feeling and this is why I have gone public," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"I think it will be a millstone around the Conservative party's neck because all problems will be blamed on the Bill unfairly."
His intervention will be greeted with glee by Labour, who have branding the health reforms a "complete disaster" and have called for the legislation to be dropped.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the prime minister was "betraying the NHS".
"We already know that the Prime Minister isn't listening to doctors and nurses. But it's a shock to find out that even senior members of his own Cabinet have to take to a Conservative website to get through to him about the damage he is doing to the NHS," he said.
"It couldn't be clearer: this is an out-of-touch Prime Minister who is putting his political pride before the best interests of the NHS."
Montgomerie faced criticism from "friends" of Lansley quoted on the Guido Fawkes website as saying:
"Tim’s sole achievement in politics was to be chief of staff to the most unpopular leader in Conservative history, so forgive us if we don’t take any lessons from him. He clearly wants to take the party back to the bad old days of constant infighting and no policy. He should stick to talking about gay marriage and leave serious issues like the NHS to the grown ups.”
Health minister Simon Burns said the claims were "tittle-tattle" and the cabinet ministers were unnamed. "I don't know who he has spoken to so in that respect it is tittle-tattle.
"From what I see within the parliamentary party and from my conversations with ministers, they are very fully supportive because they understand the need for the NHS to modernise to make sure that patients are at the centre of decision-making about their health," he told the BBC.
"The NHS is far too important to play party politics with it."
Tory Party co-chairman Baroness Warsi responded with an article on ConservativeHome, in which she said it was the "duty" of Conservatives to support the bill.
"The Health and Social Care Bill represents the most radical decentralisation of power that the NHS has witnessed in its history," wrote Lady Warsi.
"As Conservatives, it is our duty to support it.
"It passes power to patients. It gives control over the NHS budget to doctors and nurses, and gives greater freedoms to hospitals. It cuts out £4.5 billion of bureaucracy. It is in every way a Bill that hands power to the front line."