NHS Reform & Health Care Professions Bill

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Ms Blears: I believe that the powers that we are giving to patients forums are necessary. It is important that they do not simply form a view without that being informed by patients and service users. It is the whole essence of the system of patient and public involvement that patients forums do not speak simply for themselves, but make an effort to go and find out what service users have to say.

A key part, although not the only part, of that process is for the patients forums to look at the physical facilities available to see whether they are effective, appropriate and suitable for their use. The hon. Gentleman said that a tiny proportion of people might refuse to let the forums in. I think that it is right and proper that when people are willing to get involved in such voluntary organisations, we give them the necessary powers and facilities to carry out their work properly.

I am sensitive to the need to strike a balance between the activities of patients forums and the privacy and dignity of patients, which addresses the point that the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon made. We must ensure that patients' privacy and dignity is not compromised by visits from patients forums, which would defeat the object of having them. That balance is crucial, as is ensuring that they do not duplicate their visits so that people receive one visit after another. Where there are several patients forums, they must be properly co-ordinated so that they do joint visits to look at a range of issues. Such matters are not beyond our wit or ken. We are competent enough to organise a system that creates neither duplication nor the problems about which the hon. Gentleman expressed concern.

We want to have extensive consultation on regulations with all those involved in the field. Their ideas might help us to get an even better system, in terms of its practical working. People who have been involved in such activities often know what works best, what is not a good idea and what is impractical. I want us to be very well informed before we promote regulations to the House.

Dr. Harris: I do not disagree with the hon. Lady's points about the membership of patients forums. That is not where she and I have disagreements.

On the definition of premises referred to in amendment No. 211, I am not entirely satisfied because she has not been able to answer one of my questions and has said that she will write to me. However, for the reasons that I have given, amendment No. 211 is not in a fit state to be pressed.

On amendment No. 210, I disagree strongly with what the hon. Lady said in her attempted reassurances. If we are allowed, I note that we could have that debate under clause 21. I fear, however, that we will not have time then to cover either that or CHI's remit in prisons, which the Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton) promised could be examined under clause 21 when we discussed it earlier. Those points might have to be dealt with at a later stage or in the House of Lords.

On amendment No. 209, I disagree with the Minister's comment that the wording should not be ''shall'', but I do not believe that it is appropriate to press the amendment. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Ms Blears: I beg to move amendment No. 156, in page 21, line 7, at end insert—

    ''( ) Health Authorities,

    ( ) Local Health Boards,

    ( ) local authorities,''.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendment No. 157.

Ms Blears: Amendment No. 156 does not represent any policy change. We have always intended patients forums to have a right to inspect any premises where NHS patients in England go to receive health care. That sometimes includes premises owned or controlled by Welsh NHS bodies, and local authority premises where services are provided under a section 31 agreement with the local authority.

Until proposed structural changes to the NHS in Wales were introduced into the Bill, Welsh NHS bodies were covered by the original wording of the clause. After those changes, trusts in Wales will still be covered—

        It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

        Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Hurst, Mr. Alan (Chairman)
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Baron, Mr.
Blears, Ms
Burnham, Andy
Burns, Mr.
Challen, Mr.
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Hall, Mr. Mike
Harris, Dr. Evan
Havard, Mr.
Heald, Mr.
Hutton, Mr.
Moffatt, Laura
Murrison, Dr.
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Thomas, Gareth
Ward, Ms

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