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13 April 2011

Lansley faces confidence vote by nurses – and the public isn’t far behind

Poll finds that just 3 per cent of voters want reforms to proceed unaltered, while nurses’ conferenc

By Samira Shackle

Anger over Andrew Lansley’s proposed NHS reforms shows no sign of abating, with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) congress overwhelmingly backing a vote of no confidence in the Health Secretary as polls show that the public remains unconvinced by the plans.

The vote took place just hours before his arrival at the RCN conference in Liverpool. He has been accused of not having the “guts” to address the whole conference. Instead, he will take part in a Q&A session with a selected small group of 50.

Emotions in the medical profession are running high over Lansley’s proposed shake-up of the NHS in England. A similar motion was proposed to the British Medical Association last month, though it was narrowly rejected.

The government has taken the unusual step of pausing the bill to engage in a “listening exercise” with health professionals and the public – but nurses do not seem to be impressed. When the health minister Anne Milton addressed the RCN congress, mention of the exercise was met with derisive laughter. “It’s not a joke,” she said. “A pause in the legislative programme is there, and we are going to use it.”

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Perhaps even more worrying for the government is the lack of public support for the measures.

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Over at PoliticsHome, Mark Gettleson flags up some overlooked figures from the weekend’s YouGov tracker. The poll shows that just 17 per cent of voters trust Lansley on the NHS – including only 41 per cent of Conservatives.

Looking at the reforms themselves, opposition stands at 52 per cent, with just 27 per cent of the public in favour. Dig deeper, and the picture gets even bleaker for the government: just 3 per cent of voters – including 5 per cent of Conservatives – want the reforms to proceed unaltered.

Lansley is clearly not winning the battle of public opinion on this, and risks becoming increasingly isolated if he does not take the concerns of health professionals into account. One must hope that the “listening exercise” transmutes into substantive changes to the bill.