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Health and Social Care Bill

Volume 538: debated on Tuesday 10 January 2012

The Government have listened to representations throughout the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill. In addition to the consultation on the White Paper, the NHS Future Forum has undertaken two engagement exercises. The first involved 6,700 people directly and received more than 28,000 comments and e-mails, and the second involved more than 12,000 people at more than 300 events. Ministers have also continued to meet and to receive representations from a range of interested parties on a regular basis, and we will continue to do so.

I thank the Minister for that response. May I ask what specific representations he has had on children’s well-being? Is he aware that the Children’s Society will this Thursday publish its 2012 “Good Childhood” report, which will include a specific report on how central and local government could improve and promote positive well-being among children? Will the Minister and the Secretary of State meet the Children’s Society to discuss that important report?

Throughout the consultation process there have been comments and responses to proposals across the whole of the health area, including on children’s health and well-being. Obviously, I cannot comment on a report that will not be published until later this week, but I or one of my ministerial colleagues would be more than happy to meet the Children’s Society once the report has been published if the society thinks that a meeting to discuss the report’s contents would be worth while.

Against the background of the recommendation of the NHS Future Forum that a key priority for the future is greater integration between health care and social care—a priority that was explicitly endorsed last week by the Prime Minister—does my right hon. Friend agree that the key opportunity in the Bill, through the health and wellbeing boards, is to drive that agenda, which has been much talked about for many, many years now, and actually to start to deliver on that rhetoric?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right; of course, when he was Secretary of State he did a considerable amount of work to lay the ground rules for the move towards greater integration, because that is the way forward. My right hon. Friend makes a very valid point: it is the way forward and we fully recognise that. We are deeply committed to achieving that aim, and that is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has added an extra £150 million to the existing £300 million, to facilitate progress towards it.

May I tell the Secretary of State and the Minister that he will receive more representations on his Bill later this week from two hospital doctors who, early this morning, began a 160 mile run to protest against his Bill, from Bevan’s statue in Cardiff to his Department? [Interruption.] The Secretary of State should listen. Let me remind him why people are so angry. Nobody voted for the Bill. It was ruled out by the coalition agreement, and it is now the unelected House deciding the future of the NHS, passing amendments that he was too scared to table in this House.

Will the Minister today have the courage to admit that it is now the Government’s intention to allow NHS hospitals to make 49% of their income, effectively devoting half of their beds, from the treatment of private patients?

May I say a happy new year to the right hon. Gentleman as well? I believe that his analysis of the support for the Bill is flawed, because there are a number of areas where a number of organisations warmly welcome its contents. For example, the BMA voted in favour of GP commissioning at its special general meeting last year.

On the question of 49%, the shadow Secretary of State has been uncharacteristically forgetful, because of course he will appreciate that the cap applies only to foundation trusts, not to non-foundation trusts, and that is no different today from what it will be after the modernisation—and it was a policy that his Government brought in.

No, it was not. That policy would never, ever have come forward under a Labour Government—and I know that the right hon. Gentleman has not denied it. We, the Opposition, will now make it our business to tell every single patient in England about his plans for the NHS. People can finally see the Bill for what it is: a privatisation plan for the NHS. England’s hospitals will never be the same again if the Bill gets through: an explosion of private work; longer waits for NHS patients; profits before patient care. Will not the only choice on offer for patients be the old Tory choice in the NHS: wait longer or pay to go private?

I am afraid that the shadow Secretary of State is just totally wrong. This Government have no intention to and will not privatise the national health service. We want to improve patient outcomes and the patient experience. The right hon. Gentleman should look again at the 49% that he talks about, because we are not changing the situation, particularly because it does not apply to trusts at the moment; it is only for foundation trusts.

The right hon. Gentleman says it is garbage. I think that is confusing from him, because I remind him that of course it was in the Labour party manifesto at the last general election to remove the private patient cap.