by Ray Fleming

What appear to be reliable reports from participants in Monday's No 10 meeting between David Cameron and representatives of leading NHS organisations thought to be favourable to the government's reform proposals suggest that the occasion, lasting just one hour, was a failure. In advance the government said that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss “implementation” of the provisions of the NHS reform Bill which is still before Parliament but apparently most of those present used it to raise doubts about what have become familiar main line criticisms -- the scale of extension of privatisation, uncertainty about the disruptive short term consequences of the reforms and lack of interaction between key health and social care services.

Confirmation that the NHS issue is harming the coalition government came from the latest Guardian--ICM opinion poll published yesterday which showed that the Conservative gain of a four point over Labour one month ago has already been lost as Labour now leads by 37-36 per cent with the Liberal Democrats on 14.

In specific questioning about the NHS reforms, 52 per cent said they should be abandoned while only 33 per cent supported them -- remarkable figures showing a wide margin of lack of confidence in the reforms. With each move he makes on this matter Mr Cameron seems to dig ever deeper into the hole in which he is standing.

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