|NHS Reform & Health Care Professions Bill
Mr. Baron: I thank the Under-Secretary for her modest clarification of funding. I apologise if I missed the answer, but my question was about where the funding will come from. If patients forums are to be truly independent, funding should not come from the budgets of primary care trusts. We rely on patients forums to ensure that the service meets the public's requirements. If forums are funded by local primary care trusts, there could be a conflict of interest.
Ms Blears: I dealt partially with that when we discussed earlier amendments on the requirement to ensure that the funding stream came through the commission and not the trusts, so that there would be an element of independence. I told the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon that I had identified the issue as important and that we would table an amendment to strengthen independence in that regard.
The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire raised two other issues, the first relating to the position of CHC staff. I said on Tuesday that I went to the staff conference a couple of weeks ago. We launched a human resources framework document that was directed specifically at CHC staff. We have already given a commitment that they will be treated like all the other health service staff who are going through structural and organisational change as the balance of power is shifted. They must go to clearing houses and look at vacancies to see where their new role will be in the system. We want to ensure that CHC staff, including the staff of ACHCEW, have the same opportunities to find their way through the new system.
I understand Mr. Tester's point that the commitment is to ensure that staff in the NHS as a whole have a job for at least 12 months from 2002, which is when the main functions in ''Shifting the Balance of Power within the NHS'' come in. CHC staff are looking for a similar guarantee beyond 2003, which is the timetable proposed in the implementation plan. I understand that that matter is still being discussed among officials and representatives of the staff's trade union. I understand their point. We will endeavour to give them as much protection as we can, but we do not want one group of staff in the health service to be treated differently from the other staff. We want to provide equity, but we are conscious of the need to ensure that people find, where they want it, a new role in the new system.
Finally, I shall deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Westbury about ensuring that people bring a range of skills to patients forums, including people with disabilities. I commend to him the campaign currently being conducted by Scope, an excellent organisation. I learned about what it calls its ''missing persons'' campaign recently at a conference. The organisation is identifying people with a range of disabilities and the campaign's theme is, ''Have you seen this missing personas a magistrate? Have you seen them as a school governor, or in your health service?'' It is a marvellous campaign and it brought home to me that we hardly ever see people with disabilities shaping our civil society. That is a key issue for us. Such material helps to put it on the agenda, and we intend to operate a lot of missing persons campaigns. It is time that missing people had a say in our health service.
Mr. Heald: I echo the Under-Secretary's remarks. Disabled people should be given more prominence in all spheres. Scope does a great job. However, I should like to take the Committee back to the money, if I may. It is obvious that more needs to be spent on the new bodies than was spent on the community health councils. The estimates are £35.6 million for the commission, £32.5 million for patients forums and about £12 million for the advocacy service.
The Under-Secretary says that she wants to look at the matter in the round. Does she agree, first, that more money needs to be spent than was originally spent on the community health councils? Does she also agree with Mr. Tester, who, as she said, thinks that the proposals are better than the original ones but who also says that although the proposed system has the potential to be dynamic, it will also depend on being adequately resourced?
If the Under-Secretary cannot even say that the same amount of money£23 millionthat was spent on community health councils will be available for patients forums, which is about £10 million less than the estimate of what is actually required, does that not suggest that the Government are thinking of not adequately resourcing the measures? Considering the figure of £32.5 million, which is a low estimate anywayas I said, the Audit Commission has estimated £60 millionwill the Minister at least say that the Government are committed to providing the £23 million, and might even do better?
Ms Blears: I have said everything that I want to say about finance. I have said that the system will be adequately resourced, and that remains my position.
Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:
The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 3.
Division No. 9]
Clause 18 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
|©Parliamentary copyright 2001||Prepared 6 December 2001|