Labour has hit out at the “nonsensical” rules that will determine who can sit on the governing boards of the new organisations responsible for commissioning healthcare.
Opposition health spokesman Lord Hunt of Kings Heath ridiculed the restrictions imposed on the new clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which have been set up as part of the government’s NHS reforms.
But a Labour motion regretting the regulations that bring into effect the restrictions was defeated by 161 votes to 128, Government majority 33.
Lord Hunt said the registered nurse and secondary care specialist on a CCG board could not be employed by an organisation commissioned to provide services by the CCG.
He said the decision to exclude specialist local knowledge was “quite remarkable”.
“To become a registered nurse member of a CCG or a secondary care specialist you either have to be retired and therefore completely out of date or live miles away and know nothing of the local area,” he said
And he questioned the justification for banning local councillors from sitting on CCG boards.
“I have yet to hear any convincing explanation as to why they are excluded,” he said. “It is so ridiculous that if you are a GP who happens to be a local councillor you are excluded from serving on the CCG board.”
He said there would be “only two lay people who represent the public interest on those boards” which he said was “a vital error”.
And he added: “These are some of the most nonsensical statutory instruments I have ever seen.”
Health minister Earl Howe, replying to the debate, said detailed work on designing services and commissioning would not be done by the governing body but “by the CCG itself”.
He said preventing the secondary care doctor and the registered nurse working for a local provider would “prevent any potential conflicts”.
“A conflict of that nature would be a constant issue in relation to the secondary care provider given that CCGs will be responsible for commissioning the vast majority of hospital services,” he said.
“In contrast CCGs will not commission primary care - that will be the responsibility of the NHS Commissioning Board. Therefore for the most part GPs on the governing body do not have a conflict of interest.”
The government was determined to “limit political interference in the day to day running of the NHS”, he said, explaining the ban on councillors.
“A local councillor may still serve as a member of a committee or a sub-committee of a CCG, with the exception of the remuneration committee,” he added.