16 JAN 2012

NHS and Private Sectors

Allowing local health chiefs to run local hospitals could be a good step for the NHS, and would benefit the local community.

During today's debate on the NHS I intervened on Andy Burnham a couple of times to ask why Labour would oppose initiatives that would hand control to local doctors and help maintain community healthcare:

In Dover, our hospital was run down over the 13 years until 2010 and is now a shell. Why should the GPs not be able to commission another provider if the foundation trust will not fulfil its long-standing pledge to build a hospital and provide proper services for my constituents?

Andy Burnham

If those decisions are to be made, the people who make them should be accountable to the hon. Gentleman and the House, whereas the Bill that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is introducing proposes to push those things away. There will be an independent commissioning board that GPs and clinical commissioning groups will not be able to overturn; it will make the decisions. That is a completely unacceptable state of affairs.

Before the last election, we proposed a modest loosening of the private patient cap in response to pressure in another place when we were debating the Health Act 2009, but compared with our modest reforms, the Government's plans are off the scale. Instead of private sector activity at the margins, the Health and Social Care Bill places market forces at the heart of the system. The private sector will not support the NHS, but will replace large chunks of the service in commissioning and provision.

It's quite clear - Labour still won't help us with our Hospital!!

To illustrate the positive difference the reforms can bring I also mentioned Whizz Kids;

My right hon. Friend mentioned the provision of wheelchair services, which is a matter we have been looking at in Kent when considering how commissioning can be taken forward offers really great and radical ideas. Is it not the case that the Labour party would have condemned disabled people to the same standard-issue NHS wheelchairs rather than allowing them real choice across the spectrum?

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley:

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is precisely why on that basis, using the any qualified provider approach, the chief executive of the NHS can set out the ambition that a child who needs a wheelchair should get it in a day. In the past they would have to wait and then would not necessarily get the wheelchair they wanted, or in any reasonable time scale. This is about driving improvement and quality. That used to be what the Labour party believed in, which I suppose was why its last manifesto, written when the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State, stated:

"Patients requiring elective care will have the right, in law, to choose from any provider who meets NHS standards of quality at NHS costs."

That is a complete description of what we are setting out to do. It is a description of the any qualified provider policy and something that he has now completely abandoned, and he has abandoned patients in the process. It is absurd.

The objective of the Bill and of the Government is simple: continuously to improve care for patients and the health and well-being of people in this country, and that includes improving the health of the poorest fastest, and to ensure that everyone, regardless of who or where they are, enjoys health outcomes that are as good as the very best in the world. That is what we are setting out to do.

The motion states that the private sector already plays an important role in providing that care. Indeed, once upon a time the Labour party was in favour of it. The right hon. Gentleman said in May 2007:

"Now the private sector puts its capacity into the NHS for the benefit of NHS patients, which I think most people in this country would celebrate."

Whether the hospital or community provider is operated by the NHS, a charity, a private company or a social enterprise is not the issue from the patient's point of view. From our point of view, we should not make that the issue. The reason it will not matter is that, whoever is the provider of care, the values of the NHS—universal health care, paid for through general taxation, free and based on need, not ability to pay—will remain unchanged. No NHS patient pays for their care today; no patient will pay for their care in future under this Government. On that basis, I can absolutely restate what the Prime Minister said: under this Government and on our watch the NHS will not be privatised.


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Charlie Elphicke

It has been an honour and privilege to serve as Member of Parliament for Dover & Deal. I hope to be re-elected to serve our community for another term. 

Many of my appearances in the House of Commons are now on Youtube. Please click the link to watch the footage.

Please email me at charlie@elphicke.com or ring my office on 01304 379669 if you need to get in touch.