HC Deb 03 December 1996 vol 286 c783
5. Mr. Congdon

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many general practitioners have expressed an interest in the Government's total purchasing initiative. [5614]

Mr. Malone

There are 82 national total purchasing pilots comprising 322 practices. We understand that many other sites have expressed interest in such pilots. We will consider how to respond to this in the light of the National Health Service (Primary Care) Bill, which is currently before Parliament.

Mr. Congdon

I warmly welcome the growth in fundholding, and its extension via the total purchasing initiative, which is popular with GPs and patients. Given the success of fundholding, does my hon. Friend agree that it would be quite wrong to abolish it, as is proposed by the shadow health spokesman?

Mr. Malone

My hon. Friend is right. At least we have an end to the equivocation about replacing or evolving fundholding: we now know that the Labour party would abolish it. The advantages that have accrued to patients and to general practitioners from total purchasing pilots would be lost if the Opposition had their way. Unlike fundholding under this Government—which is a voluntary principle carried forward in the National Health Service (Primary Care) Bill before the House—Labour would force general practitioners into commissioning groups. It would become chain-gang commissioning, which is anathema to this side of the House.