The government maintained its determined refusal to accept any amendments to the Health Bill from the opposition parties as it completed its report stage and passed to the Lords last week.

The report stage ended in near farce as Conservative MPs forced a second day of discussion and then filibustered for over three hours, causing the report stage to be guillotined before most of the amendments could be considered.

The Lords will have to consider whether it will accept the government's decision to overturn its three amendments made earlier this year - including its suggestion that private healthcare should share regulatory standards with the NHS.

The government's consultation document on regulating the private and voluntary healthcare sector (see page 12) - which scales down its hardline attitude to separate regulation - may be enough of a compromise to ameliorate the Liberal Democrats.

Should the Lords not accept the bill - the new Conservative health team is currently considering its tactics - it will be further delayed, although there is no chance it will not become law.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Dr Evan Harris criticised the government for voting down an amendment to the bill which would introduce a 56-hour maximum average working week for junior doctors.