The prime minister has defended his government’s NHS reform proposals, saying there is “no quiet life option”.
David Cameron was speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, ahead of legislation on the proposals later in the week.
Responding to a suggestion from interviewer John Humphreys that patients were increasingly happy with the health service as it was, Mr Cameron said rising costs meant there was not “one option of just quietly standing still, staying where we are and just putting a bit more money into the NHS”.
He said the reforms were “evolutionary” and “go with the grain” of recent NHS reforms. “There is nothing in this reform that hasn’t been tried in some way,” he said.
The health and social care bill is due to be laid before Parliament on Wednesday, despite criticisms of the reforms by unions and other healthcare organisations, such as the King’s Fund.
While the speed of the changes has been questioned, Mr Cameron said the reforms would be “introduced steadily”. He said: “We are piloting these changes with organisations coming forward”.
He said in the last decade there had been “a lot of re-badging of existing bureaucracy”, but argued the coalition’s reforms were “a more fundamental change that gives real power to the patient and the general practitioner to drive change in the NHS”.
Mr Cameron said poorer patients were currently “trapped” with services. He said: “We are going to give people a much greater choice of which GP they go to and the GPs then have a choice of where you are treated, and you’re health path through the NHS – so we are giving people a route out of poor services.”
He was also forced to deny claims that health secretary Andrew Lansley had “gone native” during his long period as shadow health secretary, and had as a result listened to the views of GPs too much.
And asked why cabinet office minister Oliver Letwin had been brought in to “look over Andrew Lansley’s shoulder” at the plans, Mr Cameron said: “I think it is right to properly test out and challenge policy.”
Later, in a speech on overall public sector reform at the Royal Society of Arts in London, Mr Cameron said the “final destination” of the changes would be “the sense that first class healthcare is available to all, regardless of their wealth”.
He said he aimed to bring the third and independent sectors into the public services. He responded to criticism, saying he wanted to “elevate the national debate” from accusations of privatisation and that critics should “grow up”.