A government proposal to cap the amount of private income foundation trusts can earn at 49 per cent will have little practical impact on the health reforms, experts have claimed.

On 15 December the Lords passed a government amendment to the Health Bill that limits the amount FTs can earn from non-NHS sources to less than half of their annual turnover.

Up to that point, the bill, which removes the current caps on FTs’ private income, had not set any limit to the amount of private business they could do.

The amendment states that an NHS trust “does not fulfil its principal purpose unless, in each financial year, its total income from the provision of goods and services [for the English NHS] is greater than its total income from the provision of goods and services for any other sources.”

It came after Liberal Democrat peers Baroness Williams and Lord Marks proposed a similar amendment, which would have used licence conditions to set the proportion of FTs’ private income and patients at “less than 50 per cent”.

Sharon Lamb, a commercial partner at health law firm Capsticks, said in practice it was “unlikely that most FTs will come up against that limit in the short to medium term, based on the current volumes of private patient income that they earn”.

David Worskett, director of the NHS Partners Network, which represents private providers to the NHS, said: “I think it’s almost entirely symbolic. It will make virtually no difference… to the decisions trusts take.”

Around 75 per cent of FTs have their private income capped at or below 1.5 per cent, according to health minister Lord Howe, who tabled the amendment.