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Editor's blog Wednesday 2 March 2011: Nuffield Trust Summit Question Time panel

Nuffield Trust Summit Question Time 2.3.11 - highlights from Twitter

Chair: Micahel White, elderly sage and hack, The Guardian

Stephen Dorrell MP, chair, Commons Health Select Committee; former health secretary

Alan Milburn, former health secretary

Polly Toynbee, author and Guardian journalist

Simon Stevens, CEO UnitedHealth; former health policy advisor to Dobson F, Milburn A and Blair T

Q1: Are the current reforms simply an evolution of New Labour's reforms?
Alan Milburn: Elements of this reform are recognisable, like all providers becoming FTs - but there is a lack of a compelling case for change now. Where is the narrative; what’s the problem; where are the advocates?

Making the NHS independent of ministers is politically naïve.

But I liked the coalition agreement proposals as 1. I think you need the intermediate layer, and 2. you need a local authority tie-up.

If the reforms work, the most difficult things happen in the led up to the election. The politics don't work.

Polly Toynbee: How you reorganise the NHS is never going to make a difference, because you'll never get it right.

Q2: is it the Government's intention to see the NHS falling into the hands of private providers?

Polly Toynbee: The risk is that decisions on competition will be made by a judge; not by local people or an accountable body.

Stephen Dorrell: The NHS is on the brink of unprecedented change. It will be a deeply uncomfortable process. And the reforms don't fit the electoral timetable.

But the intention is not to privatise the NHS – I can't understand why the politics was handled in a way that allowed this to run.

Alan Milburn: I thought you were trying to recontaminate the brand.

Stephen Dorrell: So did I!

Alan Milburn: All change costs cash.

Stephen Dorrell: If we could bring more private funding into the delivery of social care it would help release pressure on NHS finances. We need to improve link between health and social care - they are one system.

Simon Stevens: GPs have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and have a collective choice. Collective decision-making can be a problem.