Labour highlights NHS competition fears and criticises Health Bill amendments

Monitor's duty to promote competition has not been sufficiently altered by Health Bill amendments, Labour has warned.

Mr Healey: the amendments have created ‘more bureaucracy and more complexity'

In a Labour briefing document, John Healey MP, shadow health minister, criticised the government's Health Bill amendments for not changing the role of new regulator, Monitor, enough.

Mr Healey argued that changing Monitor’s duty to promote competition to a duty of ‘preventing anti-competitive behaviour’ did not address fears raised during the listening exercise.

‘We are concerned that this flipping of language may not substantially affect how Monitor carries out its duties, and therefore does not reflect the deep concerns expressed by those responding to the listening exercise.’

Mr Healey said that the amendments changed Monitor’s specific duties but did not alter the broad scope of its powers.

He warned that the NHS’s protection from UK and EU competition law would be removed by changes in the Bill.

‘Monitor will still have the power to enforce competition law and to fine hospitals by 10% of their income, for collaboration that is deemed to be anti-competitive,’ he said.

Mr Healey said that decisions about providers could end up being made ‘by lawyers in Monitor and competition courts’.

The amendments have created ‘more bureaucracy and more complexity' and would ultimately lead to the NHS becoming a market, Mr Healey warned.

‘The government amendments still leave in place the essential elements of the Tories’ long-term plan to set up the NHS as a full-scale market and break up the NHS as a national public service,’ Mr Healey said.

The Bill returns to the Commons for report stage debate on 6 September.

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