Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has urged Liberal Democrats to back the Government’s controversial NHS reforms as he announced plans to spend almost £40 million improving Midland hospitals.
Speaking to the Birmingham Post, he said Lib Dems should “take pride” in being part of a Government which backed the health service.
And hitting back at critics of the health reforms, he insisted: “This Coalition Government believes in the NHS, and we will stand by it to protect it for future generations.”
Ministers have been forced to accept yet more amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill, in a bid to avoid a grass-roots revolt against Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister.
Measures to limit the number of private patients hospitals can treat were added to the Bill as it returned to the House of Lords.
Mr Lansley said the Coalition government had succeeded in cutting unnecessary costs in the NHS, for example by saving money on an IT programme, and ploughing the cash back into measures which will benefit patients directly.
Liberal Democrat activists should support the Government’s health reforms, he said.
“I hope they will be able to take pride in the fact that it’s a Coalition government who said they would increase NHS budget – it’s going to go up by £12.5 billion over four years – that we are a government that said we were going to put a stop to wasteful and pointless expenditures in the past.
“One of the things we came in to do – which the Liberal Democrats were [also] very clear about in their manifesto – was not proceeding in the same way with the NHS IT programme. And that is releasing resources.
“And they no doubt also will be able to take pride in the fact that this is part of a process of modernisation across the NHS.”
Savings have allowed the Government to find £330 million for capital improvements throughout the NHS.
They include £3.2 million for maternity services at Birmingham Women’s Hospital. The cash will contribute to improvements allowing an extra 650 babies to be born at the hospital every year, bringing the total up to 8,000.