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Foundation hospitals survive Labour revolt

Published on 29/10/03 at 04:39pm

Plans for foundation hospitals have been narrowly passed by the House of Commons despite a revolt by Labour MPs that gave the government its smallest majority to date.

The rebels, including former health secretary Frank Dobson, refused to be pacified by concessions, claiming the changes will create a "dog-eat-dog culture" inside the NHS.

Health Secretary Dr John Reid told the BBC that compromises had been made on the details but not the essentials, and if both Left and Right were attacking the plans then they were "just about right".

"What we will not compromise is decentralising the decision-making in the huge organisation in order to meet the needs of the patient, and secondly the principle that the patient comes first", he said.

Foundation hospitals will have limits put on their borrowing and how they pay staff, with a cap also put on how much income they can receive from private patients.

The vote on the Health and Social Care Bill saw the government's majority plunge from 164 to 35, despite a defense of the plans by the Prime Minister shortly beforehand.

"The reason we think it's the right thing to do is because, after having put national standards in place, it's right that we devolve as much power as possible to the front line".

"I hope when people reflect on these benefits, people will see that to be correct", he told the Commons liaison committee.

Sixty-two Labour MPs later voted in favour of removing foundation hospitals from the Bill altogether in a revolt that saw the same number of backbenchers abstain.

Public service union Unison head of health Karen Jennings said: "We don't want to see a two-tier health service, and it's clear from the closeness of the vote that many MPs don't want it either".

The bill now passes onto the House of Lords, where peers will debate it in September.

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