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Editor's blog Tuesday 15 March 2011: BMA SRM, committees galore and Another Bad Day for Andrew Lansley

Today sees the first meeting of the Health Bill committee since the weekend's policy shift from the Lib Dems. And what it will mean for the Bill's chances of a happy and fulfilling life remains in the balance.

The Health Bill committee will be streamed here from 10.30.

Prior to this, Labour held a press conference, during which shadow health secretary John Healey said, "The competition elements under discussion make up a third of the Bill, bringing in fundamental changes and opening up parts of the NHS to competition, including EU competition law. It is clear that the Tory-led government is planning to turn the NHS into a full-blown market.

"Ministers need to be honest with the public and supply the evidence that their ideologically-driven objectives will benefit the NHS rather than take it backwards. They should stand up and defend or back down and amend their plans".

Shadow health minister Liz Kendall said, "competition is the heart of the Bill but it’s the part of their plans that David Cameron and Andrew Lansley won't talk about. They won't because they know people don't want the NHS run like the public utilities".

Potentially tipping the scales of that balance is today's Special Representative Meeting of the BMA, which is streamed online from 10.30 with unlimited access here.

As I have said before, the BMA leadership's aim is not to be compelled by their internal Hammer-And-Sickle Tendency into blanket, outright opposition to the Bill. The Lib Dem policy shift should give them the air cover to successfully argue that there is no longer a clear Bill to oppose.

We've got the text of BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum's highly effective, ovation-winning speech online here. From the bits I could see, the room appears minded for a fight with the Government, but perhaps not total opposition.

And the Commons health select committee continues its inquiry into commissioning, with an evidence session hearing from John Black (President, Royal College of Surgeons of England), Alwen Williams CBE (Chief Executive, East London and the City Alliance PCT cluster,) Dr Paul Hobday GP, and Sean Boyle (Senior Research Fellow, London School of Economics),
Suzanne Tracey (President, Healthcare Financial Management Association), Noel Plumridge, independent consultant, Andy McKeon (Managing Director for Health, Audit Commission) and Professor Margaret Whitehead (Professor of Public Health, University of Liverpool). This is streamed online here from 10.30.

And fans of NHS Supreme Soviet Chair Comrade Sir David Nicholson, which I know you all are, can find him explaining NHS procurement to the lucky, lucky PAC here.

Another Bad Day for Andrew Lansley
I feel like I've used that sub-head a million times, but you'll already have seen that his farcical public health responsibility deal has been holed below the water: yesterday  by almost all the major public health bodies on the alcohol strategy side, and today by Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation on the obesity side, as The Guardian reports.

On the bright side, 170 supermarkets and some food manufacturers have apparently signed up to something that won't make them do much. Whoopee.

Might Our Saviour And Liberator feel his hand is strengthened by today's PAC report criticising NHS hospital productivity?

Perhaps, a little bit. However, he will also be aware that more productivity in acute settings in against the direction of travel, cost-wise. The report suggests that the funding increase has gone into quality more than into productivity.

Lansley will cling hard to the first part of its line that "the Department and an expert independent witness told the committee that although the risks to delivering savings have increased in light of the planned reforms, the reforms could increase its ability to improve productivity in some areas"; his opponents will clang hard to the second.

His critics will also cite the lines on "‘best practice tariffs to promote greater hospital efficiency. On the one hand, this tariff system could promote efficiency and productivity, but on the other hand could prioritise price over quality. The Department needs to set out how it will mitigate the risk that, with best practice tariffs and any increased price competition, hospitals may reduce the quality of service, or may decide not to provide some services".

I'll add bits and bobs here as the day wears on, or you can follow on Twitter @HPIAndyCowper