My Lords, I had not planned to speak in this debate but, having heard the contributions of many noble Lords, it is important perhaps to indulge in reminding the House that competition does not revolve around just what one might call private and public. I am the chief executive of a social enterprise organisation, which some might consider to be a new entrant into the health and social care market. However, in substance misuse and learning disabilities, it is a significant, historical provider of services to members of the community and the provision of long-term condition management.
The debate around competition becomes polarised very quickly, as has been pointed out in earlier contributions to this debate. I am in favour of competition. It seems to be currently the case in the NHS that we have competition. I am concerned about the way in which the market is managed. Let me illustrate this with an example: it is possible for a new entrant into a care market-say, delivery of community health services -with very little experience in that market to win a substantial contract against an incumbent provider with vast experience and an excellent track record simply because the interpretation of the way in which procurement rules need to be managed means that that not-for-profit provider gets ruled out. That happened recently in reference to the provision of community health services in Surrey and the Surrey nurses.
The safeguards that I want to see in regard to competition are those that protect public taxpayers' money in the procurement of health and social care services. Again, we tend to concentrate on hospitals, surgery and related issues. These days, the health service is as much about what happens in the community. I am concerned that we have safeguards in place to protect health and social care services from new incumbents with a poor track record, or no track record, which can bid at or below cost and win simply because the procurement rules rule out not-for-profit providers who may not be able to access capital. I refer to the intention of this Government to bring in laws that would encourage social value and social enterprise.
It would be helpful for the House to be reminded that the players in the health and social care market are no longer just public and private. The market has to be managed in favour of a mixed economy and in favour of retaining resources in the public realm that could be pulled out in a simple battle between private capital and public service. I hope that my contribution has made sense and I apologise for keeping the House.