Report (5th Day)

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 6th March 2012.

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Photo of Baroness Meacher Baroness Meacher Crossbench 5:30 pm, 6th March 2012

My Lords, I rise with some trepidation, not having been involved in Committee on this Bill but having been upstairs in Grand Committee on another Bill. I therefore have not done the learning that I know noble Lords around the House have done during that process.

Many noble Lords have referred to the term "competition" without distinguishing between competition within the NHS between public sector organisations and competition between public sector and private sector organisations. It is perhaps relevant for me to quote recent research by Zack Cooper and colleagues at the London School of Economics. It came out in February, since Committee, which is my justification for introducing research at this late stage of the Bill. That research looked at competition between public service NHS organisations on the one hand, starting in 2006, and between the different forms of organisation, the private and the public, on the other hand, starting in 2008.

This considerable research looked at 1.8 million patients, 161 public sector hospitals and 162 private sector hospitals and should be taken seriously. It showed that the result of public sector competition was a reduction in lengths of stay both pre-surgery and post-surgery. Those results were significant. As the Minister knows, I support strongly competition in the public sector. I really believe that human beings thrive on competition. Therefore, if the research showed that public and private sector competition worked, I would support it because I believe in the best possible service for patients.

This research also shows that when you look at the competition between the private and public sector organisations, you will find an increase in the length of stay in the public services, albeit that there perhaps is a marginal improvement financially. If you look at the whole policing and monitoring apparatus that you need in far greater proportions once you have all this competition, I am not sure that you would even achieve a financial benefit. However, you find a reduction in quality, most particularly for people with long-term conditions. That is why I needed to speak in this debate.

I hope that whatever happens on these amendments, great care will be taken to protect public service provision. If we do not prevent the cherry picking, which happened in the provisions studied by this research and has occurred in other settings examined by research, without any question we will achieve a two-tier service with the private sector cherry picking the easier and healthier patients and the public sector having the complex care. I know that this issue will have been rehearsed at length in Committee. I do not want to go on further but it is important that we do not just use the word "competition" without clearly differentiating the competition that we are talking about.