Lords vote on section 75 competition rules 'will be close'

A House of Lords vote to kill off the controversial section 75 of NHS competition regulations on Wednesday could be close, the peer leading the campaign has said.

Lord Hunt: section 75 vote will be close
Lord Hunt: section 75 vote will be close

Labour’s deputy leader and health spokesman in the Lords, Lord Philip Hunt of Kings Heath, tabled the so-called ‘fatal motion’ to annul the regulations which will be debated on 24 April.

Lord Hunt told GP while it was difficult to win a vote in the Lords against the coalition government's majority, many representations had been made to members. He said support from crossbenchers and Liberal Democrats willing to vote against their party’s leadership could make a difference.

Campaigners from the Labour party-affiliated Socialist Health Association said the Lords motion could be won by as few as five votes.

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

Lord Hunt said 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'.

The DH has said the purpose of the regulations was simply to transfer existing procurement requirements from PCTs to CCGs and to allow the regulator, Monitor, to enforce the rules.

Officials rewrote the original section 75 of the competition rules after a furious response from GPs, royal colleges and opposition politicians.

But the redrafted regulations still state that commissioners can only award contracts without competition if they can show no other provider could offer the service.

Last week the BMA threw its weight behind the campaign 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 That is why GPs want the regulations withdrawn.’

Lord Hunt said tomorrow's vote would be a ‘tough call’ but that it was important to make the case against the regulations, because he believed public support was behind him.


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