The government is to launch a "future forum" to advise on changes to its NHS reforms that will be lead by Professor Steve Field, the immediate past chair of the Royal College of GPs.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley told the Commons earlier this week that he would use a "natural pause" in the passage of the Health Bill through Parliament to launch a consultation exercise on its proposals to shake up the NHS.
The proposals, first aired in the ‘Liberating the NHS’ white paper last summer, have attracted criticism for shaking up commissioning by transfering 80% of the NHS budget to GP commissioning consortia, and for exposing providers to more competition.
This morning, health minister Earl Howe told a Health Service Journal event that the "future forum" would advise on changes to the reforms.
However, he also indicated that the government believes there is agreement on the "principles" of the reforms and what is needed is more attention to the implementation and detail.
This afternoon, the Department of Health posted a note saying that the forum will bring together "a new group of patient representives, doctors and nurses" who will "listen and report back to government."
No names apart from Field’s have been announced. However, in the DH note health sectretary Andrew Lansley was quoted as saying that the forum will be a "valuable channel for the thoughts and opinions of patients and staff on the ground."
Professor Field is seen as a supporter of the reforms, although he has expressed doubts about GPs’ capability to take on commissioning roles without outside help and has urged the government to respect the "principles" of doctors and the NHS.
He is certainly an advocate of change in clinical practice. He was recently involved in a King’s Fund inquiry into the future of General Practice that found family doctors had been slow to adopt technology to interact with their patients, and to use data to measure and alter their own performance.