Bid to scrap NHS competition rules defeated in Lords vote

A Labour move to overturn controversial 'section 75' NHS competition regulations was defeated in the House of Lords last night.

Parliament: Lords reject bid to overturn competition rules
Parliament: Lords reject bid to overturn competition rules

The ‘fatal motion’ to annul the regulations was defeated by 254 votes to 146, a government majority of 108.

Labour’s deputy leader and health spokesman in the Lords, Lord Philip Hunt of Kings Heath, who tabled the motion, told peers: ‘Every day, up and down the country, a market is unfolding in the NHS. People in the NHS believe that that is happening. They are seeing contracts already being won by the private sector. They see themselves being undercut, and they worry about the fragmentation of services and about the overall intent of the government.’

Opponents of the competition rules have warned they would open the door to privatisation of NHS services. They believe section 75 of the NHS (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) (No. 2) Regulations 2013 could force commissioners to put all services out to tender.

Lord Hunt told GP the regulations were ‘important in setting the context in which the new system is going to operate', and would determine 'whether CCGs will be given the freedom they were promised to commission with who they want, or if they are going to be constrained by these regulations to do a lot of competitive tendering, which I don’t think many of them want to do’.

Health minister Lord Howe said the laws relating to competitive tendering ‘have not changed one iota’ and denied the government wanted to privatise the NHS.

‘It is NHS commissioners and no one else who will decide whether, where and how competition in service provision should be introduced,' the minister said. ‘These regulations do not confer any obligation on commissioners to create or promote markets, nor do they require commissioners to unbundle or fragment services against the interests of patients.’

The BMA had backed the attempt to throw out the regulations. GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘GP commissioners now have responsibility for making critical decisions about how best to provide services to patients in their locality.

‘Commissioners could be put in the position of facing costly tendering processes and possible legal challenges from unsuccessful bidders because of ambiguous rules. That is why GPs want the regulations withdrawn.’

Lancashire GP and GPC member Dr David Wrigley, said the vote was a 'black day' for the NHS. 'The GPC were so anxious about CCGs being forced to tender out NHS services that they voted overwhelmingly to oppose the government plans to parcel up and sell off the NHS in England. The Lords ignored the views of NHS professionals.

'It is worth noting that numerous members of the House of Lords who voted through these regulations have significant financial interest in private healthcare companies.'

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