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GP peer attempts to scupper health bill

A former GP and peer is attempting to kill off the Health and Social Care Bill in the House of Lords.

Lord Rea, a former lecturer at St Thomas' Hospital Medical School and GP, tabled a motion that, if passed, would mean the health bill would go no further in the House of Lords and could not pass into law in this session of Parliament.

Speaking as a long debate on the NHS reforms began today, the Labour peer said the intention of the health bill is to ‘open the door wider - it's already ajar - to the market and independent business'.

He tabled an amendment to decline to give the health bill a second reading. Lord Rea acknowledged it is unusual to oppose a bill that has passed all its stages in the House of Commons, but said it had happened before.

The convention is that in the House of Lords a bill in the Government's manifesto is given a second reading. In the case of a coalition Government, Lord Rea argued that the coalition agreement which states: ‘We will stop the top-down reorganisations of the NHS that have got in the way of patient care,' should be taken as the manifesto commitment.

Lord Rea told peers: ‘We have a bill that was expressly ruled out by the words in David Cameron's speech and subsequently in the coalition agreement.'

‘It seems that there was deliberate concealment of what was planned,' he claimed. The bill must have been in ‘gestation' for months or years. Michael Portillo had said it was not put into the Conservative manifesto because then the Tories would have lost the election,' Lord Rea said. ‘How patronising that is,' he added.

Another doctor Lord Owen also tabled a motion, which will be debated if Lord Rea's motion is not moved or is not agreed to, that would have the effect of establishing a select committee to examine the health bill and subjecting it to further scrutiny.

Lord Darzi, the surgeon and former Labour health minister, made a plea for all clinicians to be involved in commissioning in a meaningful way.

‘If clinical commissioning is about empowering clinicians to reshape and reform services to improve quality of care for patients, then it will have my support.'

'But I need ministers to give me reassurance that it is all clinical professions - GPs, community services and specialists working together - that will undertake commissioning,' Lord Darzi said.

Former GP Baroness Tonge, surgeon and Lord Turnberg, a former president of the Royal College of Physicians, were among the many other doctors also due to speak in the debate.