Report (6th Day)

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in the House of Lords at 1:15 pm on 8th March 2012.

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Photo of Baroness Murphy Baroness Murphy Crossbench 1:15 pm, 8th March 2012

I have concerns similar to those of the noble Lord, Lord Warner, but this amendment is different from those that I have seen floating around from the noble Lord, Lord Phillips. I also have questions, but we must be very clear about what we mean by "queue-jumping". If an NHS patient goes to an ordinary NHS hospital consultant and is told that they need an operation, it is completely legitimate for them then to ask to go privately and pay for the operation. That is, as the noble Lord, Lord Warner, said, enshrined in the NHS Act of 1948, and completely legitimate. Queue-jumping is when a patient sees a private consultant who then inserts the patient into the NHS list ahead of other NHS patients. That is what we want to avoid, and it is already completely illegal and highly frowned on. Most hospitals do what they can to exclude it, but I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, that it goes on, and we know that it does. It is an unpleasant practice and should be stamped out, but I do not know whether this amendment does that.

As the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, reminded us, the conundrum of private units in NHS hospitals must be borne in mind. That may be the most constructive way in which to ensure that NHS consultants are available to NHS patients when they need to be, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, said. But often private patients have operations that go wrong-and then, if there are two patients in need of an NHS intensive care bed, the patient who takes priority is the person with the clinical need. It is very much the same as someone on a battlefield. It does not matter whether it is an enemy soldier or a domestic soldier.