NHS reforms: Audit areas to be extended, Lansley says

Andrew Lansley
Image caption Andrew Lansley said offering patients more choice did not amount to privatisation

Monitoring of NHS healthcare is to be extended to 11 extra areas of medicine, the health secretary has announced.

Andrew Lansley told GPs in Liverpool that auditing would be extended to areas including HIV and breast cancer.

He said publishing better data would allow patients to make more informed choices and specialists to "compare themselves with the best".

Mr Lansley also defended plans to give GPs more commissioning responsibility under the government's NHS reforms.

In his speech to the Royal College of GPs' conference, Mr Lansley said the government's Health and Social Care Bill would encourage competition and that GPs wanted more say in the running of the service.

"For years, GPs have been telling me, 'if only they would listen to us, we could do it so much better'," he said.

"Well as I say, I am now 'they'. I am listening to you. And I do want you to do it better.

"At the heart, then and now, of doing it better for patients is for clinicians to be at the heart of commissioning."

Speaking to BBC News before Saturday's conference, Mr Lansley said that offering more choice for patients did not mean privatisation.

"We're not looking to turn the NHS into some kind of private industry, far from it.

"It's a public service and it has to be integrated around the needs of patients.

"But there is a role, a big role, for patients in being able to exercise choice and therefore by extension where patients exercise choice, you have to have a choice amongst providers."

Mr Lansley told the conference outcomes for patients in areas of medicine including breast cancer, prostate cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease would be "audited, monitored and regularly published in the future".

"From December we will pilot the publication of clinical audit data to detail the performance of clinical teams. This will then be rolled out across England from April next year," he said.

"Better data means better quality in the NHS - for patients, for their specialist clinicians, and crucially for you - both as their GPs and as the future commissioners of those services," he said.

Controversy over policy

The NHS reforms in the Health and Social Care Bill would increase competition and put GP-led groups in control of buying care in their areas.

Ministers say the changes are vital to help the NHS cope with the demands of an ageing population, the costs of new drugs and treatments and the impact of lifestyle factors, such as obesity.

The reforms have been one of the most controversial areas of government policy over the past year and had to be put on hold in the spring amid mounting criticisms from the medical profession, academics and MPs.

It led to ministers making a number of concessions, including giving health professionals other than GPs more power over how NHS funds are spent as well as watering down the role of competition.

Earlier this month, the House of Lords rejected a proposed amendment that would have referred parts of the bill to a special select committee.

It will now proceed to a normal committee stage in the Lords.

However, Labour's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has said his party will continue to fight for "substantial and drastic changes" to the bill.

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