Has NHS boss David Nicholson lost Cameron's confidence?
David Cameron has consistently backed embattled NHS chief - but his support may now be 'wavering'
DAVID CAMERON'S support for the embattled NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson appears finally to be "wavering", according to the Daily Telegraph. It says there is "growing cross-party pressure" for Nicholson to step down following his appearance yesterday before the Commons health select committee.
Nicholson told MPs he was still the right man to lead the NHS, despite admitting to "personal failings" over the culture that led to the scandal at Mid Staffs, where up to 1,200 patients may have died needlessly.
Yesterday Cameron backed Nicholson. But under intense questioning by Labour MPs during today's Prime Minister's Questions, he appeared to suggest that the NHS chief should "consider his position".
Labour backbencher Graham Stringer asked the PM: "How can the public have any confidence in the administration of the NHS when this man remains? Will the Prime Minister not sack him immediately?"
Cameron's reply did not include an assurance that Nicholson still has his confidence. He also said that other people responsible for failings in the health service - including ministers in the last Labour government - should "consider their positions too". The Telegraph believes that remark indicates that the PM believes "Sir David is doing the same".
"What I would say about David Nicholson is that he has very frankly and very candidly apologised and acknowledged the mistakes that were made," Cameron told MPs.
The Guardian agrees that the PM's rhetoric showed "a marked change in tone" today. It notes that Cameron responded last month to the Francis Report into the Mid Staffordshire scandal by saying that it would be wrong to seek scapegoats.
Downing Street insisted that the PM's remarks in the Commons were consistent with his initial response to the Francis Report. "It is completely consistent, there is no inconsistency," a spokesperson said.
The Guardian's political correspondent Nicholas Watt explains that Number Ten is keen to hold on to Nicholson "for the moment" because he is one of the few people in Whitehall who understands the complex health reforms introduced by the former health secretary Andrew Lansley. ·