The deal: Labour offers way forward on NHS impasse

Burnham with Ed Miliband at the Labour conference. The new shadow health secretary is in favour at Labour HQ.
Burnham with Ed Miliband at the Labour conference. The new shadow health secretary is in favour at Labour HQ.

By Ian Dunt

Andy Burnham kicked off his tenure as shadow health secretary today with a remarkable offer to his government counter-part.

Just days after entering the post, Mr Burnham offered to support GP commissioning, a major facet of the NHS reforms which Labour has previously opposed, but only if the government kills off the bill.

"This approach offers a way ahead that everybody could unite behind. It would bring much-needed stability and would help the NHS save money on the costs of re-organisation," Mr Burnham said.


"People would be encouraged to see the main parties setting aside differences and working together for the good of the NHS."

The bill survived a recent vote in the Commons but is expected to face disciplined opposition in the Lords, where Lib Dem Shirley Williams will lead peers in gutting some of its remaining contentious clauses.

"This is a genuine offer and I hope he will accept it. But make no mistake - we will fight the government every step of the way if it tries to force these dangerous reforms on the NHS," Mr Burnham said.

Labour believes that no legislation would be needed to implement clinician-led commissioning in every locality in England and that the process could take place much faster without it.

Mr Burnham was one of the major beneficiaries of Friday's Labour reshuffle, being moved from shadow schools to shadow health – a key area of coalition weakness.

Ministers have already been forced to pause and then radically water down proposals to reform the NHS and many commentators expect the bill to emerge from the Lords a shadow of its original self.

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