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Crucial report on NHS reforms released today

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Recommendations on how best to amend the government’s reform plans for the NHS are to be unveiled later today.

The NHS Future Forum will publish its report setting out why and how government should make changes to the Health and Social Care Bill.

The bill, currently on hold, has attracted widespread criticism from the medical profession and unions, particularly over its aim to increase competition between the NHS and private companies.

In response, last week David Cameron outlined “real changes” to the reforms, saying hospital doctors and nurses would now be involved in commissioning care, as well as GPs.

The hospital regulator Monitor will also have a duty to promote co-operation between services, and competition will only be increased when it benefits patients and improves choice.

GP consortia will take responsibility for commissioning when they “are ready”, not by a set date - which had been April 2013 - as Andrew Lansley had planned.

New “clinical senates” are also to be established, made up of senior medical professionals to oversee local integration of NHS services.

Mr Cameron said the government had listened to concerns about the bill during the recent “listening exercise”, which saw more than 200 events held across the country.

The NHS Future Forum, established by Mr Cameron, has been tasked with gathering the views of doctors, nurses and patients during the exercise.

Today, Professor Steve Field, chairman of the forum and former head of the Royal College of GPs, will unveil its findings.

  • Keep an eye on today for the latest news and analysis as we report on the Future Forum’s findings

The British Medical Association, which is against an increased role for private companies set down in the bill, has warned Monitor’s twin role of co-operation and competition could be contradictory.

BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said the prime minister’s speech was “not a game-changer” and described the situation as “muddy”.

The BMA is calling for Monitor’s primary duty to “be to protect high-quality, sustainable, comprehensive health care services, and not to enforce competition”.

It also wants stricter controls on powers of intervention, bonus payments to consortia to be linked to outcomes and not financial performance, and for Mr Lansley to have his responsibility to ensure the provision of a comprehensive health care service reinstated in the Bill.

The bill should also be amended to restrict the powers of the NHS Information Centre to access confidential patient information, the BMA said.

NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar said he was “optimistic” but the uncertainty of the past few months had been “destabilising” for the NHS.

“The government must now give the NHS some clarity and enable it to focus on the major problems it faces such as financial pressure and the variability of care,” he said.

“It is essential that those responsible for taking key decisions are able to do so with confidence and certainty.

“It is easy to think that agreement on words in speeches does the trick, but we also need practical ways forward.

“We cannot go on with indefinite uncertainty, buffeted by events.

“The NHS needs to concentrate on its day job and chart a way through the stormy waters ahead.”

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