Report (5th Day)

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:58 pm on 6th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Labour 4:58 pm, 6th March 2012

I speak to Amendment 164 in my name, which is in this group. It returns to the issue I raised in Committee: the need for Monitor to produce an early report on the barriers to entry for new providers of services to the NHS. Although he had sympathy with what I was trying to do, the Minister did not like my previous amendment, which would have required Monitor to produce a report within 12 months of Royal Assent on barriers to NHS entry to new providers. I think that he accepts that there are barriers to entry for new providers which we need to tackle. In this amendment, I have added the words "identifying and" to the requirement in Clause 61(3) for Monitor to prevent anti-competitive behaviour.

I recognise that many people in this House and in the Commons do not share my view on the virtues of competition when used selectively for patient benefit. I will not go over all the ground again, but I think there is good evidence-the noble Earl cited some of it in an earlier discussion-that that has proved beneficial to patients. Moreover, the UK is almost unique in large advanced healthcare systems in enshrining monopoly public providers of hospital services, with little challenge to their efficiency or effectiveness. These NHS monopolies have been very good at erecting barriers to entry for newcomers and ensuring-if I may put it as unkindly as this-a quiet life for monopoly incumbents.

We should be concerned about this. Only last week there were some startling statistics in the Health Service Journal about non-foundation trusts' poor performance in achieving savings requirements in line with the Government's targets. I have no problems with the Government setting those targets for non-foundation trusts to improve their efficiency. None the less, however we frame the competition provisions in this legislation, we have to face the fact that it is extremely difficult for new entrants to dislodge incumbents in many of these services where the performance is poor. That is why in my view Monitor should, after the Bill receives Royal Assent, quickly identify clearly existing barriers to entry so that they can be dismantled in the public interest. The Co-operation and Competition Panel has already identified some of the barriers for new entrants to the NHS market-and, again, I make no apology for talking about an NHS market. It is important that we see healthcare, in part, as a market where new providers can provide better services and different types of services more effectively.

I hope that the Government will look sympathetically at this modest amendment to try to get Monitor on the case of identifying barriers to entry.