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Lords reject 'shambolic' foundation plans

Published on 06/11/03 at 01:55pm

The government's controversial plans to create foundation hospitals have been rejected by the House of Lords.

Peers singled out for particular attention the foundation hospital section of the Health and Social Care Bill, with opposition Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, independents and rebel Labour lords rejecting the plans and forcing MPs to re-consider the proposals. 

The government lost the vote on foundation hospitals by 150 to 100 votes. 

A large number of Labour MPs have expressed opposition to the proposals, which they say could create a two-tier NHS, by voting against the bill in the summer, cutting the government majority to just 35 from 164.

Lord Strathclyde, Tory leader of the Lords, told a Westminster news conference that the plans were "shambolic and the House is entirely within its rights to send the bill back to the Commons".

He said opposition to the details of the bill crossed the political divide.

"The House of Lords has noted the scale of unease in the House of Commons and we believe the issue should be looked at again. That is a proper role for a revising chamber."

Conservative peer Earle Howe said his party were in many ways disappointed to oppose a policy very much in the Tory spirit, but that the detail showed the plans were unlikely to deliver the promised freedom.

"The proposals will actually damage the NHS that is why we feel justified in attempting to send back this part of the bill to the Commons.

"Because foundation trusts have privileged access to capital, it really does mean the rest of the NHS will be disadvantaged quite severely."

He also warned that unsuitable candidates could be elected to foundation trust boards, undermining the management of the hospital.

"This will have a damaging effect on patients. What hospitals need is competent professional management, they don't need to be second guessed by political agitators," he said.

Despite such opposition, and considerable uncertainty about the details of how the system will operate, over 60 three-star trusts have now applied to become foundation trusts, with the first wave gaining the special status between autumn 2004 and spring 2005, depending on the course of the legislation.

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