Health secretary Andrew Lansley is not a politician to wilt in the face of criticism, which probably came in handy last week.
Last Tuesday he was questioned on Radio 4’s Today programme about an apparent policy U-turn to let GPs commission maternity services. Mr Lansley failed to deny that the exclusive, published in HSJ’s sister magazine Nursing Times, was an accurate report.
The pressure continued on Thursday with the release of a Foundation Trust Network report saying many GP back office functions could be shared.
The media latched on to a small section of the document which suggested regional or national call centres could be set up to handle GP appointment booking.
The Mirror warned that the move would create a “chaotic jungle” of GP call centres, while Janet Street-Porter declared in The Independent on Sunday that this “latest wheeze” meant Mr Lansley was “fast shaping up as my least favourite government minister”.
After, or possibly because of, all the fuss, the Department of Health said it had no plans to pursue the idea anyway.
The Guardian’s Saturday edition led on the words of newly installed Royal College of GPs chair Clare Gerada who, as a woman who speaks her mind, was predictably described as “feisty”. Dr Gerada said the present round of health reforms meant nothing less than “the end of the NHS as we currently know it”. However, she was certain GPs would step up. After all, she said: “If you asked GPs to run a fish farm they would run it well”.
No doubt Mr Lansley is already in talks with DEFRA.
Concluding a long week, The Observer suggested Mr Lansley was at the centre of a cabinet split over school sports funding. Former sparring partner Andy Burnham responded: “I don’t often have many good words to say about Mr Andrew Lansley… but I’d like to praise him.”
At least he still has a friend, even if he is in the wrong party.