NHS (Private Sector)

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 8:03 pm on 16th January 2012.

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Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley The Secretary of State for Health 8:03 pm, 16th January 2012

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. Many NHS providers will respond positively to that and deliver the quality, but if they do not we ought to be in a position to believe that what really matters in the NHS is the quality of the service provided to patients. 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.”

Like my hon. Friends, I do not understand where he is coming from. The motion tries to face both ways, stating that Labour agrees with the private sector but also wants to have less of it. It agrees that the private sector can make a valuable contribution, but wants to stop it doing so. What matters to patients is the quality of care they receive, the experience of their care and the dignity and respect with which they are treated. 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.