Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill
Lord Walton of Detchant (Crossbench)
My Lords, I support the amendment. Not many of your Lordships will remember the time, under a previous Labour Administration, when as a result of pressure from the unions in the National Health Service there was a move to remove all private beds from all NHS hospitals. That was when Lady Castle—then Mrs Castle—was Secretary of State for Health. In Newcastle, where I was working as a professor of neurology, there were three private beds in the entire body of NHS hospitals—one in each of the major hospitals.
As everyone knows, under the National Health Service there is an appropriate rule that any patients coming to this country from abroad specifically for medical treatment must, if they are admitted to an NHS hospital, be admitted as private patients. At that time I was in the very curious position of having to refuse admission to two patients from the United States referred to my specialist department for investigation because there were no private beds to which they could be admitted. My problem with Clause 15 is that the restrictions that are likely to be imposed could, at the very worst, result in a similar situation where it might not be possible for patients from overseas referred to this country for specialised care to be admitted to an NHS hospital for private care. For that reason I warmly support the amendment.
One great advantage of having private beds in NHS hospitals is that consultants working in those hospitals, who undertake private work—not all consultants do—are geographically there the whole time. The decision made by that previous Labour Administration gave the single most powerful impetus to the development of private hospitals outside the NHS of any other governmental decision. The result was that quite a number of consultants found themselves occupied in travelling distances between the NHS hospital where they worked primarily and the private hospitals where they saw their private patients. The advantages of having private care in NHS hospitals are profound. For that reason I support the amendment.