Page last updated at 19:24 GMT, Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Opposition debate: NHS reorganisation

EU institutions will make key decisions on NHS regulation in England under the government's proposed health reforms, Labour has claimed.

Opening an opposition-led debate on 16 March 2011, shadow health secretary John Healey said allowing private firms to provide services on the NHS will mean that commissioning contracts will be subject to EU competition law.

He argued that the coalition had "no mandate" for the reforms as the electorate was not told of the scale of the plans to shake-up the NHS before the coalition agreement was signed last May.

He told the Commons: "GP consortia will be corporate bodies not public sector bodies because hospitals will be competing with each other, have no limit on treating private patients and no support from the wider NHS if they run in to financial problems, they will be bodies to which the EU competition rules and legislation apply.

"This means the NHS will be tied up in the red tape of market regulation and competition law and we will see the decisions about who provides our healthcare services being taken not in England by GPs or by ministers but in Brussels by the European Commission and in Luxembourg by the European Court."

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley dismissed the argument.

"It's dead simple. The Health and Social Care Bill does not extend the application of EU competition law. It does not extend the application of domestic competition law," he told MPs.

"It doesn't change the scope of competition law at all."

Under the plans, England's 152 primary care trusts (PCTs) are to be abolished and GP consortiums across the country will assume responsibility for the commissioning of services for patients.

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