Amendments 146A to 150A not moved.
Health and Social Care Bill
Lord Mawhinney (Conservative)
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, was right when she said that these are important amendments because they get to the heart of one of the big issues of the Bill. They pose a problem that only the Government can help us to understand and resolve. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, introduced us to the concept of clusters. Although I am deeply tempted-for I agree with what my noble friend Lord Newton of Braintree said about them-as we are supposed to be brief, I shall resist expressing my views on clusters until we get to the amendments that I have put down to Schedule 6, which deals with these issues, save to say that, at that point, the House is unlikely to be confused about what I think.
The noble Lord, Lord Warner, pinpointed the issue. From my Second Reading speech and also from conversations which he and I have had, my noble friend will know that I am enthusiastic about this Bill because it introduces GP commissioning. I have strong memories of the great advantage that GP fundholding presented to those patients who were the patients of GP fundholders. So I was drawn to be supportive, because I understood that the groups were going to be relatively small. They would benefit from the inter-reaction of GPs and patients, and nobody in the health service knows better than GPs what is in the best interest of their patients.
On the other hand, I recognise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Warner, that if you have too many of them-as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, has pointed out-you run into other difficulties. Were we to wind up with a smaller number of large bodies, then clinical commissioning starts to mean something entirely different from what those of us who were supportive of the Bill believed to be the case initially. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, said there was a danger in all of this and a number of GPs would wind up being very disappointed. I have to say to my noble friend that if we get in to big organisations, there will be more than a few GPs who will be disappointed at the direction of government-policy travel.