UK

MPs to reconsider changes to NHS reforms in detail

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Image caption Ministers agreed a series of changes following a "listening exercise"

Changes to proposed NHS reforms in England will be subject to fresh scrutiny in the Commons after MPs voted to send them back to committee stage.

MPs voted by a majority of 73 to "recommit" parts of the Health and Social Care Bill in a rare procedure.

Labour wanted the whole bill re-examined, arguing concessions meant it had changed beyond recognition.

Ministers have accepted limits on competition and a greater role for doctors and nurses in commissioning.

The concessions followed a backlash against Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's original proposals by many within the medical profession.

'Reckless'

MPs backed a motion recommitting aspects of the bill by 297 to 224 votes following a short debate in the Commons. The last time this happened during the passage of government legislation was in 2003.

Shadow health secretary John Healey said Labour would continue to "oppose this reckless and needless NHS reorganisation" and argued the decision only to review the proposed changes was a "procedural fix".

But Health Minister Simon Burns said ministers did not believe it was necessary for the entire Bill to be recommitted to committee in order for proper scrutiny to take place.

"Indeed we feel very strongly that this would unnecessarily delay the progress of the Bill to the ultimate detriment of patients," he said. "It is now time to give greater clarity and direction to staff and patients."

Liberal Democrat John Pugh, a critic of the original reforms, supported the government's action and said Labour's call for a longer period in committee would cause "unnecessary delay" and cause further uncertainty.

"The Bill so far, through its existence, has led to uncertainty," he said. "You don't do that against a background of complete and utter uncertainty, not knowing who will be running the NHS or finding those savings,"

By returning parts of the bill to committee stage, it means it is likely to take longer to become law.

Ministers originally wanted new GP-led consortia to take over responsibility for planning and commissioning care from April 2013 but it has backed down on this - saying that the new bodies will only do so when they are ready.

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