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Health and Social Care Bill

Volume 540: debated on Tuesday 21 February 2012

I respect the Minister, but massive opposition to the Bill is mounting at the same time as its meagre support is ebbing away. Any more rational process would have resulted in the dignified withdrawal of the Bill long ago. Is there anything that would persuade the Secretary of State—frankly, he should be answering this question—to change his mind?

The straightforward answer is no, because everyone, including the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), accepts that the NHS has to evolve to keep up and meet its challenges. What matters to patients is not who delivers their care but the quality of the care that they receive, their experience of that care and the dignity and respect with which they are treated at all times. Cutting bureaucracy by a third to reinvest £4.5 billion in front-line services between now and 2015 is the way forward. Frankly, if one goes and talks to doctors around the country, one finds that they wish that Labour’s party political squabbling would stop so that they can get on with implementing the modernisation programme.

The Minister talks about party politics. Is he not aware that not a day goes past without an organisation representing doctors and nurses coming out against his Bill? Most recently, the Royal College of Physicians is having to hold an extraordinary general meeting because of pressure from its members. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is consulting its members. Why should anyone in this House support a Bill to which the men and women who work in the health service are so opposed and which even Tory Cabinet Ministers are briefing against?

I suspect that the hon. Lady does not get out and about much to meet doctors who are beginning to commission care for their patients. If she did, she would know that the mantra she is repeating from organisations that are not representative of doctors in this country—[Interruption.]

Order. The Minister of State is such an emollient fellow that I cannot imagine why people are getting so worked up, but they are getting very worked up, and they must calm themselves. We are only on Tuesday; we have got some time to go. Let us hear the Minister.

Very briefly, Mr Speaker, I can say to the hon. Lady that a number of the organisations that she mentions are trade unions that do not represent the views of GPs up and down the country who are actually engaged in implementing the modernisation by commissioning care for their patients.