Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, challenged the Health Secretary to restore to patients the right (which Labour removed in 1999) to choose to be treated at any NHS hospital.
Peter Lilley said: “I have always believed that the most effective way to raise the quality of care in our hospitals is to make them directly accountable to patients. This means giving patients the right to choose any NHS hospital in this country – and ensuring that taxpayers? money follows patient choice by giving them a patients? passport equal to the cost of the operation that they need.
“This government removed patients? right to choose in 1999- for the first time in the history of the NHS. Now they can only go to a hospital to which their local PCT has contracted to send them.
Choice would be particularly valuable to my constituents in Hitchin and Harpenden as we are surrounded by five general hospitals. Patients, advised by their GPs should be able to select the hospital they prefer – whether because it has the shortest waiting time, the cleanest wards, is nearest their relatives or has the best record for treating their condition.
“Sadly, the Secretary of State refused to repeal circular 1999/197 which removed choice. Choice is the most powerful way of driving up standards of care in any organisation. We need it in the NHS.”
Note to Editors:
Extract from the Commons Hansard
1 Jul 2003 : Column 171
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): Would not the most effective way to raise the quality of care in our hospitals be to make them directly accountable to patients by giving them the right to choose any NHS hospital in this country and ensuring that taxpayers? money follows patient choice by giving them a patients passport equal to the cost of the operation that they need? Therefore, why have the Government removed, for the first time in the history of the NHS, the right of patients to choose any hospital other than the one to which their local primary care trust has contracted to send them? When will the Secretary of State repeal circular-
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Dr. Reid: I was almost on my way to agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman when he said that we should extend real choice to people, but he reverted to talking about the theoretical choice that is always espoused by Conservative Members: people may have the right to choose to buy a Rolls-Royce, but it is a pity if they do not have enough money to exercise that right. Labour Members want to give patients real choice by putting the necessary financial resources into the health service so that-in London, for example-if people do not have an operation of a specified type in six months, they will be able to choose to go to another national health service, or private, hospital. Indeed, if the operation is not provided in this country, people could go abroad to have it done because the patient is the centre of all our considerations. I want to roll that out. Mrs. Thatcher said several years ago that she wanted the choice to have the treatment for her family that she wanted, at the place and time that she wanted. I half agree with her, but the difference is that I want that for every family in this country.