Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:15 pm on 6th November 2003.

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Photo of Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Crossbench 12:15 pm, 6th November 2003

My Lords, this has been a very complex debate to date. We have had complex speeches previously and very powerful speeches at this stage. I do not wish to detain the House for very long. I would simply like to represent to the House the concerns of healthcare professionals. In every system that they have worked in, they try to look after patients who are extremely ill.

New technologies are emerging very fast in healthcare—faster now than in the days when I qualified. There is a very real concern among those trying to deliver frontline care—the care that counts at the end of the day—that the changes proposed will truly enable them to do their job better than they do at the moment. There is a desperate plea to remove the hand of interfering politics from the way in which healthcare is delivered. Healthcare has to be delivered to absolutely everybody with a degree of equity based on need, not on demand.

I sincerely believe that the healthcare professionals will function professionally in whatever system is in place, because they have high ethical standards and codes. The Minister has certainly listened very carefully to comments that have been made and I will not be speaking to my amendment in this group because it has been superseded by a much better amendment tabled by the Minister.

This has been a complex debate, but we are being asked to take a leap of faith. Will the new arrangements improve or burden the top end of the health service? Will consulting with local people really improve the way that healthcare is delivered at the coal-face with this revolution before us, or were we better off looking at evolutionary change? Change is certainly needed. Nobody is a dinosaur. Nobody is against change, but there are some real concerns about how these arrangements will work in practice.

Many of your Lordships will have received correspondence from population groups concerned that somehow they will not be consulted on hospitals that they use. A sense of disenfranchisement is beginning to be felt by some groups from the hospitals that they would like to have a role in.

The Minister has a huge burden on his shoulders and I do not envy him, but the task to convince many Members of this House that the proposals before us will really bring about change and will be worth the expenditure and upheaval involved in them is difficult to undertake.