Clinical commissioning groups were established in statute. They are, accordingly, public bodies and cannot become private, for-profit organisations.
I thank the Minister for that answer. As we know, most GPs go into medicine to make people well, but now that her Government have made the NHS subject to competition law there is real fear in Newcastle and across the country that they will find themselves obliged to turn a profit from their patients. Is this not, as Professor Ham of the King’s Fund has said, a further step towards privatisation?
No. I would urge the hon. Lady, if I may, to exercise care when claiming that this is a privatisation of the NHS. It certainly is not. GPs’ surgeries, such as those in her own constituency, have always been private businesses. A GP surgery in the hon. Lady’s own constituency, where, in my view, she has been engaged in considerable scaremongering, was put out to tender under rules introduced by the previous Labour Government. Indeed, it was the previous Government who brought in privatisation to the NHS on a scale that we had never seen before in this country. I am proud that it is this coalition that is making sure that the tariffs are fair and no longer favour the private sector.
One way that the clinical commissioning groups can support the values of the NHS is to back the new social enterprises—forms of business enterprise—that are now delivering NHS services central to our health-care reforms. Is the Minister aware that my local clinical commissioning group wants to shut down a 60-bed rehabilitation unit provided by nurses and owned by a social enterprise called Spiral, without any adequate provision for a replacement? Will she meet me to discuss this worrying development?
Yes, of course I will meet my hon. Friend. I hold a ministerial surgery on Monday evenings and would be grateful if he came along to one, but I would be happy to meet him in any event. These are local decisions that will be made by local commissioners, but they should always commission in the interests and to the benefit of the people whom they serve.