Health secretary Alan Johnson was shown Baroness Molly Meacher’s amendment to abolish the cap on private patient income and raised ‘no concerns’, HSJ has been told.

Baroness Meacher’s amendment to the current Health Bill would effectively remove the cap on the proportion of income foundation trusts can earn from private patients and replace it with a requirement to demonstrate how the income benefits NHS patients.

The cross bench peer tabled the amendment on behalf of the Foundation Trust Network, which drafted it for her.

Uneven playing field

Baroness Meacher told HSJ: “We are trying to solve the uneven playing field which arises because some foundations have low caps, mental health trusts have a cap of nothing and some acutes have up to 30 per cent.”

She said she shared the “genuine concerns” - raised by the trade union Unison and some MPs - that without the cap foundations might focus on lucrative private patients at the expense of NHS patients.

Questions

Baroness Meacher chairs East London mental health foundation trust. She said: “Our trust isn’t wishing to be involved in any private patient activities, so I hardly need to declare an interest in this. I don’t believe [that is] a particularly desirable way forward. That’s why I like this amendment because it just raises questions.”

Foundation trust regulator Monitor has been lobbying the Department of Health to change the law around the cap ever since Unison launched its judicial review claiming Monitor’s interpretation is too lax.

Asked if the department had a hand in drafting the amendment, Baroness Meacher said: “Alan Johnson’s office has been consulted about it and they have no concerns about it. That is important for me. The purpose is to have a discussion with ministers. It wouldn’t be terribly helpful if I put down an amendment that ministers were furious about.”

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Peer lays amendment to remove private patient income cap