A newly-promoted health minister has admitted the government “screwed up” its handling of its controversial NHS reforms.
Anna Soubry made the remark, just days after her appointment in this month’s reshuffle, during a private question-and-answer session at a conference hosted by the NHS Leadership Academy, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Asked about the way the coalition had dealt with medical professionals and the Royal Colleges over the reforms, Ms Soubry said: “We screwed up.”
Amid intense opposition from NHS staff, unions and patients’ groups, ministers last year “paused” the legislation before embarking on further consultation resulting in a series of amendments to the Bill.
Andrew Lansley, who as health secretary authored the reforms and guided them through parliament, was demoted to Leader of the Commons in the recent reshuffle. Ms Soubry was at the time a parliamentary private secretary to health minister Simon Burns.
Ms Soubry said today she had “always been very supportive of the reforms” and anyone suggesting otherwise was taking her remark out of context.
It is the second time in a week that she has attracted attention for her outspokenness after she described the laws on assisted dying as “ridiculous” and “appalling”.
In a statement, Ms Soubry said everybody knew the NHS “needs to change”.
“I have always been very supportive of the reforms, and anyone suggesting otherwise is taking my comments out of context. As we have acknowledged, we could have done more when the plans were set out initially to explain the benefits for patients, and encourage the support of health professionals,” she said.
“That is exactly why we took the rare step last year of pausing the legislation and holding a listening exercise. We ensured we took on people’s concerns and improved our plans so that they support our health service to provide everyone with the best care.”
But shadow health minister Jamie Reed said: “This Tory-led government is completely out of touch if they think the only problem with their NHS plans is one of presentation.
“The government rammed through its wasteful £3 billion re-organisation in the face of overwhelming public and professional opposition - these comments will do nothing for patients suffering because of the chaos David Cameron has created in the NHS.”