It will be difficult to follow Helen Eadie's spirited contribution, but I will try.
The philosophy of the health service in Scotland is that it is a mutually and publicly owned service. Allowing commercial firms to run GP practices goes against that philosophy and I support part 2 of the bill, which aims to stop that happening. However, there is a loophole, which I seek to close with my amendments. As the bill stands, if a medical practitioner—or other health care professional—regularly performs or is engaged in the day-to-day provision of primary medical services, a health board may enter into an agreement with them to provide primary medical services in that health board area. However, a person or persons could apply for such a contract when the services in which they are personally engaged are hundreds of miles away. Those people could also apply to provide services in many areas, all far from each other. Already, in England, one such combination of professionals runs about 40 GP practices in that way. There is little obvious difference between health professionals engaging in such activities and commercial companies operating in the same way.
Amendments 25 and 27 provide that contractors are acceptable only if their regular involvement in patient care will be by virtue of the agreement being negotiated. Amendments 26 and 28 provide that services that are supplied outside a prescribed geographical area should be disregarded when considering eligibility, unless there are specific circumstances in which that should not happen. Amendments 26 and 28 also prescribe which periods of absence from day-to-day provision of services may or may not be taken into account. For example there is an obvious difference, once a contract has been signed, between absence for some months due to maternity entitlement and absence for a similar
I move amendment 25.