NHS concerns fall on deaf ears.

As David Cameron holds a special summit at Downing Street today, there are fewer signs than ever that this is a government prepared to listen.

Following initial criticism of the plans for widespread NHS reform, a high profile “listening exercise” was conducted between April and July of last year in order to address some of the concerns and encourage greater support for the reforms.

Since then however, the number of professional bodies to withdraw the tentative support they  originally offered the government has increased, revealing an opinion that strongly suggests there are very few professionals involved in the NHS who have any confidence in the reorganizations proposed by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

Neither Lansley nor Cameron appear able to convince doubters that the plans, in their current form, are necessary or will result in better quality of treatment in the NHS.

Indeed the concerns amongst professionals are that the Bill will affect patient care, with specific examples given of areas where it is felt that patients will be more at risk.

Some of those examples are believed to be detailed in the Risk Register, a publication produced by the Department of Health and originally due for release last Autumn, but held back by Andrew Lansley despite repeated calls by the Information Commissioner for the government to publish the document.

Critics argue that the Risk Register is being kept private due to its inclusion of information which would threaten the government’s chances of seeing the bill passed. A debate is set for Parliament on Wednesday to vote on its publication.

It is unclear whether the outcome will affect the government from forcing through its deeply unpopular plans.

What is certain is that unlike the forestry issue, there will be no last minute U-turn by David Cameron on the NHS despite his continued difficulties in reassuring MPs, medical professionals and voters that the reforms proposed by his government – and in some cases already underway – will benefit the health service.

If the bill does go through, there will be huge pressure on NHS staff to meet the extra demands placed on them at the same time as they are expected to make massive financial savings within a tightening budget.

But after avoiding answering questions by MPs when pressed on some of the problems with the bill, and having failed to listen to or address the serious concerns expressed by the likes of the British Medical Association, who have now been left out of discussions held by David Cameron over the implementation of key aspects detailed in the reforms, it could be the Prime Minister himself who will feel the most pressure to ensure that public confidence in the health system remains strong.

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