The government's plans for healthcare reform will bring the NHS into "the real world", a Conservative peer has said.
Lady Cumberlege, who is vice-president of the Royal College of Midwives, accused the current system of "barefaced protection of inefficiency and the worst manifestation of trade unionism", during second reading of the Health and Social Care Bill on 11 October 2011.
The House of Lords began business earlier than usual to allow peers to discuss the bill, which faces serious opposition there.
Labour's Lord Rea, a former GP, has launched a bid to stop the bill progressing any further, and crossbencher and former health minister Lord Owen has put forward an amendment to delay the reforms until April 2012.
Lord Patel of Bradford, a Labour peer and former chair of the Mental Health Act Commission, raised concerns about the bill's implications for continuity of care for psychiatric patients. He suggested that because the bill could be "dramatically improved" it should not be rejected outright.
Crossbencher Baroness Murphy, who has chaired various health bodies including St George's Medical School in London, declared she had rarely received "so much misinformed lobbying".
"I hear the bill heralds the end of the NHS as we know it," she said, adding that "in fact this bill includes no privatisation at all".
Liberal Democrat Lord Willis of Knaresborough, who used to sit on the science and technology committee, said the bill's critics made it sound as though it had come "from Hades". He made the point that reform needed to be based on scientific evidence about what is best for the patient.
The bill, which has already passed the Commons, was recommitted to Parliament in July after the government made a series of changes following widespread anger among NHS professionals and patient groups.
The changes include adding hospital doctors and nurses to the new commissioning consortia - not just GPs, as proposed by the original bill - and scrapping an April 2013 deadline for the new boards to take over.
part one of the Health and Social Care Bill from day one.
part three of the Health and Social Care Bill from day one.
part four of the Health and Social Care Bill from day one.