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30-03-2011 | General practice | Article

Lords can ‘dramatically amend Bill’


Lord Owen’s website and pamphlet

The House of Lords will give serious consideration to amending the Health and Social Care Bill to ensure the NHS remains unexposed to external markets, says cross-bench peer Lord David Owen.

Lord Owen has published a pamphlet this week, in which he calls for the Bill to be referred to a Select Committee of the House of Lords after second reading in the Commons.

"There was no mention in either the Conservative or Liberal Democrat party manifestos at the 2010 General Election of an intention to carry forward anything like this revolutionary change," he writes in Fatally Flawed: Yes to the internal market - no to the external market.

Under the Salisbury Convention, this means the House of Lords is entitled to make substantial amendments to the Bill.

Speaking to GP News, Lord Owen said that as the government has no clear mandate on the proposed changes included in the Bill, the House of Lords will have "no hesitation whatsoever in very dramatically amending it".

He believes that the moment patients perceive that decisions about their care are being taken on cost grounds, the relationship of trust with healthcare professionals will alter.

Lord Owen added that, whereas the NHS has up until now remained a domestic issue, the introduction of an external market could expose it to European Union competition law.

"Hanging over this Bill is a real possibility of competition law affecting commissioning decisions, and unless we get the language very right, the provision for 'any willing provider' will almost certainly involve every GP consortia commissioning decision being subject to a legal appeal," he said.

Referral to a Lords Select Committee will allow serious examination of the Bill in the manner of a pre-legislative committee and is the "right mechanism" for dealing with it at this stage, said Owen.

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Sarah Guy