Report (5th Day)

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 6th March 2012.

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Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 4:15 pm, 6th March 2012

My Lords, competition in the health service is a complex topic and very often, in my experience, misunderstood. It is important that we start with a misconception which several noble Lords have raised with me outside the Chamber and, indeed, in Committee. We need to be clear that competition already exists in the NHS and that the Bill does not herald its introduction. The last Government fully recognised that and encouraged it. The last operating framework which they put in place for the NHS stated:

"We shall enable this by ... re-affirming our commitment to the 'any willing provider' approach for free choice of elective care, reducing the barriers to the entry of new providers".

The previous Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, giving evidence to the Liaison Committee in December 2007, said that,

"the private sector ... is expanding, will continue to expand and will be a lot bigger in the next few years than it is now".

The Labour Party manifesto of 2010 said:

"Patients requiring elective care will have the right, in law, to choose from any provider who meets NHS standards of quality at NHS costs".

The previous Government's policy of increasing the use of competition is already benefiting patients. The recent report from the Office of Health Economics Commission on Competition in the NHS concluded that,

"evidence both from the UK and internationally suggests that quality based competition with prices fixed by a regulator can be beneficial, producing higher quality care at the same cost on average and, importantly, not leading to increased inequity in access to health care".