Sarah Wollaston: Ditching NHS Bill now would damage the service even more
An outspoken critic of NHS reforms has said dropping controversial legislation at the 11th hour risked making the cherished public service worse rather than better.
Sarah Wollaston, a former GP and now an MP in Devon, said she opposed calls for a U-turn on NHS reform as it limps through Parliament.
As peers resumed scrutiny of the Bill, Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes said Health Secretary Andrew Lansley should be replaced after legislation was passed.
Meanwhile, two Westcountry MPs – Lib Dem Andrew George and Labour's Ben Bradshaw – called for the Health and Social Care Bill to be dropped.
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But Dr Wollaston, who previously warned of reforms being akin to "tossing a hand grenade" into local health structures, said the overhaul should not be reversed.
The Conservative MP for Totnes said: "We could end up with a worse service if we ditched the Bill now.
"We could end up with something more centralised and directive rather than have the opportunity for local family doctors to decide what is best for patients."
Dr Wollaston said many of her concerns had been addressed after the Bill was "paused" and recommendations by the Future Forum were accepted.
Tensions mounted last week when The Times quoted sources at No 10 saying Mr Lansley should be "taken out and shot" for failing to convince people, underlined by the need to add more than 1,000 amendments to the Bill.
At the heart of the change is giving GPs greater control of NHS budgets and abolishing local health trusts, though Labour argues it the service is being privatised through the back-door.
Dr Wollaston, who sits on the Health Select Committee, added: "Those people opposing it now – why weren't they saying that at the Future Forum? There are some people who have seen a bandwagon and jumped on it."
Downing Street was yesterday forced to dismiss suggestions Mr Lansley should be sacked after Mr Hughes called for the beleaguered minister to "move on" in the second half of the Parliament.
Andrew George, Lib Dem MP for St Ives, who also sits on the Health Select Committee, said: "I acknowledge that stopping the Bill would be disruptive. But not as disruptive as allowing the Bill to carry on."
Former Health Minister Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, said: "I have said all along it was madness to combine the biggest upheaval in NHS history with the tightest ever spending constraint."
But West peer Lord Tyler, former Lib Dem MP for North Cornwall, said the reforms would spell the demise of "pen-pushers and bureaucrats" hampering the NHS.