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Opposition to the coalition’s NHS reforms spreads

Norman Tebbit and David Owen warn that the plans will allow private firms to “cherry-pick” care.

The coalition's inept health reforms have achieved the rare feat of uniting Norman Tebbit and David Owen. Following the news that Downing Street is attempting to water down Andrew Lansley's bill, the former Conservative chairman and the former SDP leader unleash fusillades against the plans this morning.

Tebbit warns that the reforms will allow private firms to "cherry-pick" care from the NHS. He says: "It's fine for the private sector, which doesn't have responsibility for teaching and bringing on young surgeons, to take the straightforward and easy stuff. But that means the public sector is then left without the base of work to subsidise the more difficult surgery and the teaching of surgeons."

Elsewhere, Owen, who previously wrote in the New Statesman that the Lib Dems would no longer be "the heirs of Beveridge" if they failed to oppose the reforms, warns that the House of Lords will feel free to make significant amendments to the bill because the coalition "lacks a mandate" for many of the policies set out in it. In his new pamphlet, Fatally Flawed, Owen, who supported the introduction of the internal market in the 1980s, warns that the reforms are of "staggering ineptitude" and will create a "destructive external market" in health care.

In addition, Ed Miliband has repeated his call for David Cameron to withdraw the "confused, expensive and reckless plans" and has demanded three key amendments in a letter to the PM:

  1. Measures to protect the NHS "against the full force of UK and EU competition law".
  2. The reintroduction of guaranteed waiting times.
  3. The withdrawal of plans to break up commissioning into hundreds of small GP consortiums.

We're likely to see significant movement from Downing Street on this front over the next two weeks.