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Feature Interview

Even Stephen: is it Dorrell to the rescue?

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 05 April 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2221
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist, London
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}

Health Select Committee chairman Stephen Dorrell believes that to make its English NHS reforms work the government needs to broaden commissioning. Nigel Hawkes talks to the man seen as the bellwether of Conservative opinion on government health policy

“These are modest proposals,” says Conservative MP Stephen Dorrell of the government’s health reforms. “It’s very easy to overstate their effects.” And, just in case you haven’t got the point, he adds: “It’s at the margin. There are much much bigger concerns, such as meeting the huge challenge of efficiency savings.”

As chairman of the Health Select Committee and a former secretary of state for health, Mr Dorrell is the bellwether of Conservative opinion on the coalition government’s policy, and a possible successor to Andrew Lansley should the health secretary fall in front of a Whitehall bus. He exudes the air of a man who has seen it all before, and is pretty certain there is less than meets the eye in the current furore over where the government is taking the English NHS.

But if the policy is not really all that bold or new, how has it created such a wave of anger? “There’s a mismatch between the …

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