Report (5th Day)

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in the House of Lords at 7:30 pm on 6th March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Newton of Braintree Lord Newton of Braintree Conservative 7:30 pm, 6th March 2012

My Lords, perhaps I may intervene briefly, if only to avoid withdrawal symptoms from not having spoken on any day this week. I want to support my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones on the general proposition without wishing in any way to threaten mayhem if we do not get a satisfactory reply. The House is well aware, as I have referred to it on a number of occasions, that last year I went through what turned out to be the trauma of trying to engage in what was technically a takeover, although we presented it as a merger, with the neighbouring health trust. That involved Suffolk Mental Health and Norfolk Mental Health. We finally achieved it on New Year's Day, so I am, so to speak, out of work.

There was a real problem. One got the feeling that the people on the competition and collaboration panel, or whatever it was called, which overlaps quite heavily with the Competition Commission, saw us in much the same category-how can I put this without upsetting anyone?-as two rival sellers of washing detergents. They did not recognise that health is not like that. There were health issues, patient safety issues and quality of service issues that needed to trump the competition issues. I know that we have been told that that will happen, but it is very important to make sure that the machinery will ensure that it happens and that the health issues trump those narrower competition issues. All I seek from the Minister is an assurance that, one way or another, that will be the case.