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GP peer to table amendments to ‘wreck’ health bill

Exclusive The health bill faces an uncertain passage through the House of Lords as a GP peer is set to launch a series of amendments to derail the health bill and a leading Liberal Democrat warned of 'huge ructions' amongst peers.

Lord Nicholas Rea, a Labour peer and formerly a GP in north London, told Pulse he will draft amendments in support of the BMA's call for the bill to be withdrawn, and predicted the Government would ‘struggle' to secure the bill's passage. The bill returns to the House of Commons for its report stage and third reading on 6 September, and will then move to House of Lords, with a second reading expected there in October.

Lord Rea told Pulse: ‘There is a groundswell of peers who want to reject the whole thing. The Lib Dem peers have been very critical of the bill. Many of them are even more uneasy about it than the crossbenchers. But will they put their votes where their mouths are? This could be a make or break issue for the coalition.'

‘There is a lot of scope for tabling amendments that effectively would wreck the bill. The BMA is absolutely right to call for the bill to be withdrawn and I will definitely be speaking to them about tabling amendments.'

It comes as another GP peer and senior Liberal Democrat admitted the bill was causing ‘ructions' among the party in the House of Lords, as a split emerged between those in favour of amending or withdrawing the bill.

Baroness Jenny Tonge, a former GP in Ealing, west London and ex-Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, said: ‘I will definitely be voting against the bill. It is causing huge ructions among our peers.'

‘There are a group of peers that feel the bill can be amended, and if we push for it then the Lib Dems can claim to have done a good thing. But there a group of us, including me, who reject the whole thing and want it withdrawn. That view is echoed by many crossbenchers. A lot of them are furious about the bill, particularly the ones who have been involved in professions allied to medicine.'

The two former GP peers said they were uncomfortable about Andrew Lansley's vision of a market-driven NHS, and shared concerns that the Government's ‘pause and listen' exercise had achieved little.

Baroness Tonge said: ‘The last thing I would ever have wanted to do as a GP would have been to act as the gatekeeper and commissioner of secondary and tertiary services that my patients have access.'

'GPs should not be put in a position of having to tell a patient that clinicians cannot afford to give you this care – they should be totally independent of those decisions. That is hugely damaging to the doctor patient relationship.'