The Liberal Democrats were fundamental in helping to make controversial reforms of the NHS “stronger”, the secretary of state for health has said.
Andrew Lansley insisted Cabinet ministers were on board with the massive shake-up, despite claims that three Tory colleagues had deep concerns with the plans, and praised the input of coalition partners.
In an interview on BBC2’s Newsnight Mr Lansley said he always knew there would be uproar over the reforms, insisting all previous health secretaries who attempted to push through changes had faced the same response.
“There’s always noise. The NHS matters so people make a lot of passionate remarks about it,” he said.
“Ken Clarke, who is a fabulous communicator, far better than I am, he tried reform in the early 1990s and the BMA said that it was the end of the NHS as we know it.
“There is no way of undertaking major reform imagining that you’re not going to be misrepresented and distorted…We’ve reached the stage where quite a lot of the disinformation out there is a problem, because people are saying things that are literally not true.”
Mr Lansley dismissed claims that health care would be rationed. “Priority setting is necessary and should be done by doctors and nurses,” he said. “It’s not rationing because that’s depriving people of services.”
He added: “If there had been a Conservative government, we would have started out in a different place. The bill is better as a result of the Coalition coming together to shape it.”
He also repeated his attack on the Royal College of Nursing, claiming it was opposing the reforms because of plans to freeze pay and cut the pensions of nurses.
“My theory is they were angry with the government because of the continuation of pay restraint and the pension issue,” he said.
Asked if it would be the last reform of the NHS he could foresee for the next 10 years, he replied: “Yes, it is a major piece of legislation. Why? Because we’re dealing with the issues that haven’t been dealt with in the past.”