HC Deb 06 July 1999 vol 334 cc819-20
15. Miss Melanie Johnson (Welwyn Hatfield)

What plans he has to introduce new regulations covering private health care. [88252]

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Frank Dobson)

On 15 June we published a consultation document, "Regulating Private and Voluntary Healthcare", in which we have proposed a new body with tough powers to regulate private hospitals and to replace the archaic system that currently treats private hospitals as nursing homes.

Miss Johnson

I welcome my right hon. Friend's reply and the consultation, which builds on work done by people such as my constituent Caroline Buckley, who lost her mother tragically under private health care, and the many bereaved and troubled relatives concerned by the state of the private health care industry. Who does my right hon. Friend believe should foot the bill for the regulation of private health care? Should it be the NHS, as the Opposition believe, or should the industry foot the bill itself?

Mr. Dobson

We propose that the private health care industry should pay the costs of its regulation, and I can safely say that we have the Treasury's wholehearted support.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

Will the Secretary of State consider my eight-year-old constituent, Laura Giddings, who lost her leg in the Planet Hollywood explosion and who, as I have said before, has been forced to turn to the private sector to obtain a suitable artificial limb? In drawing up new regulations for the private sector, will he consider applying to artificial limbs the criteria applied to wheelchairs so that someone who has to go to the private sector for a suitable appliance will receive the money that would have been spent on a less suitable appliance by the NHS?

Mr. Dobson

I express sympathy for the little girl and her family. The family have met my right hon. Friend the Minister for Public Health, and I am prepared to consider any arrangement that would facilitate the little girl's being able to get about as well as humanity can manage now that inhumanity has deprived her of her leg.

Mr. David Hinchliffe (Wakefield)

Has my right hon. Friend been able to study the work of Dr. John Yates at Birmingham university, which proves that areas of the country with the highest number of private beds also seem to have the longest NHS waiting lists? Has he had a chance to consider that matter, and if so, what action are the Government taking?

Mr. Dobson

Yes, I have and the Select Committee on Health, which is chaired by my hon. Friend, is studying that and other matters related to the regulation of the private sector. I look forward to receiving its report and considering it along with the other representations that we receive in response to our consultation document.