LONDON The government will respond next month to a review of National Health Service reforms that have alarmed health professionals and threaten to become a political liability.
David Cameron said the reforms were needed to improve patient care and ensure the cost of new treatments and rising demand from an ageing population do not overwhelm the service.
"We save the NHS by changing it. We risk its long-term future by resisting change now," he said in a speech at a west London hospital on Monday.
In an attempt to regain the initiative over the issue, Cameron has taken over presentation of the plans from Conservative Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, whose position is seen at risk as opposition to the restructuring has grown.
Cameron indicated the government would give ground in areas of concern, such as including hospital doctors and nurses in decisions on health provision, and preventing private firms seizing the most lucrative medical services.
Lansley's proposal to increase competition within the NHS in England have alarmed many who fear it heralds the end of equal patient access to the cradle-to-grave service, founded in 1948 and employing 1.3 million people.
"Let me make clear: there will be no privatisation, there will be no cherry-picking from private providers, there will be no new upfront costs people have to pay to get care," Cameron said.
Public disquiet over the planned restructuring of the NHS has put pressure on the coalition partners, forcing a temporary stay on the plans last month.
Cameron has promised to make "significant and substantial changes" to the government's Health and Social Care Bill after suspending the passage of the draft legislation in parliament.
Deputy Prime Minster Nick Clegg has threatened to block the bill if the modifications to the plans fail to remove the risk of a "disruptive revolution" in the NHS.
A government-commissioned review of the plans led by senior doctor Steve Field will report at the beginning of next month, Cameron said. "We will issue our response later in June," he added.
(Editing by Steve Addison)
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