08/02/2012 11:58 GMT | Updated 09/04/2012 06:12 BST

Defeat For Government In Lords On NHS Health And Social Care Bill

The Government suffered a defeat in the House of Lords on its controversial NHS reforms on Wednesday afternoon, when peers voted by 244 to 240, majority four, to emphasise the importance of mental health.

The amendment passed on Wednesday afternoon has taken many people by surprise - and indicates the Lords may give Andrew Lansley a more difficult time than previously thought.

The vote calls for mental health to be placed on an equal footing as physical health. The charity MIND were one of those who called for the amendment to be tabled.

Louise Kirsh, the parliamentary manager for MIND, was told HuffPost UK she was delighted at the news.

"When the government launched its mental health strategy last year, they talked about wanting to create parity of esteem between physical and mental health services," she told Huffpost UK. "We've been the poor sister, never had as much money pumped into mental health. We set about drafting this amendment, which will make the government put its money where its mouth is.

"There are quite a few people in the Lords who know the situation we're in. We're facing cuts because fewer people are prepared to jump up and defend mental health services. It has come as a bit of a surprise, but we're delighted."

Labour had been playing down their expectations for defeating the government in the Lords on Wednesday, expecting most of the controversial amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill to be tabled later this month. So this defeat came as something of a surprise.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley is under renewed pressure from Labour to drop the Bill, and David Cameron faced a rough ride in PMQs on Wednesday lunchtime. He was challenged repeatedly by Ed Miliband about the government's handling of the NHS, and in turn Cameron offered relatively guarded support for Lansley.

On Tuesday after a Number 10 source was quoted in the Times saying the prime minister wanted to see Lansley "taken out and shot", a Downing Street spokeswoman insisted the health secretary continued to enjoy David Cameron's "full support", despite mounting criticisms of his planned NHS reforms and press speculation about his future in the Cabinet.

The majority of health professionals oppose the bill. 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 Lords have further votes on Wednesday evening including amendments on the role of the Secretary of State for Health in the new system being proposed.