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“The Pause is Over. It’s Now Time to Act”

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In his speech to the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester, Andrew Lansley called on NHS managers to “regain the momentum” on restructuring the health service, following changes to the health and social care bill.

“The pause is over. It’s now time to act,” he stated.

Lansley described the listening exercise as “an unusual step”, but said the bill has been improved as a result of pause, which was carried out by the Future Forum group led by Professor Steve Field. The health secretary also said the pause had helped the government to “reconnect” with the public and staff.

He said, “The pause let us build a greater sense of ownership. People feared, perhaps were told they should fear, that the bill would undermine the values of the NHS. I would never let that happen.” In regards to the biggest controversy surrounding the bill, Lansley added that, “competition will only ever be used as a means of improving care for patients.” But he suggested that, despite changes, the “guiding principles” of his reforms remain in place.

Lansley also announced a fifth wave of clinical commissioning groups, bringing the total number to 257, covering 97% of people in England. The first commissioning groups will take over from primary care trusts by April 2013.

Following his speech, Lansley followed some hostile questioning regarding his valuation of NHS management. He answered, “I’m not responsible for what the Daily Mail writes but I’m opposed to an over administered NHS,” before adding, “I’ve consistently, over years, made it clear that what I am looking for is high quality leadership. Trying to remove wasteful bureaucracy is not a denigration of good managers.”

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