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On amendment No. 81, I was somewhat surprised when I discovered that the GMC was a registered charity. I am not sure why a professional regulatory
body should have that status, and I am interested to know what charitable works it performs, although that is a side issue. I have listened carefully to the comments of the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien), and I could not understand how the creation of fees would definitely have an effect on the charitable status of the regulatory body.
Mr. O'Brien: It may be helpful if I clarify that there are precedents elsewhere whereby, when a fee is exchanged of a substantial amount of a bodys income, it is effectively a cost recovery or could even be regarded as a professional commercial transaction, because fees are paid for membership. It has not necessarily been as clear as it might have been that a body in that position can retain charitable status. In the case of other bodies, it has been felt necessary to specify that in the relevant legislation, to ensure that there is no danger to their charitable status. I feel that the GMC deserves to have equal assurance and equal respect paid to it.
Mr. Bradshaw: Amendment No. 81 would provide that neither the making of fees regulations by the Secretary of State nor the payment of a fee to OHPA would affect the charitable status of the regulatory body. I hope to be able to reassure the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien). I can go into detail about what justifies the GMCs charitable status if the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley) really wants me to, but perhaps I had better write to her. We are advised that it will not be affected. My officials have been in contact with the Charity Commission, which has indicated that the key issue is a bodys charitable purpose. A requirement in law to make a payment to another body would not of itself cause a body to lose its charitable status, although it could be a relevant factor in assessing its purpose and whether it is for public benefit. I am pleased to confirm that the Charity Commissions initial view is that
the proposed changes will not mean that the GMC is no longer in law a charity.
Amendment No. 2 would insert a new statutory function of the CHRE into section 25(2) of the National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Act 2002, through clause 108. The proposed new function is to promote the provision of independent advice to the public on reporting concerns to the regulatory bodies. We fully accept the reasoning behind the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Romsey, but we do not believe that it is necessary.
Clause 108 already inserts into section 25 of the 2002 Act a new main objective that the CHRE must consider when exercising its functions: how it will promote the health, safety and well-being of patients
and other members of the public. That will allow the CHRE to promote and provide independent advice along the lines suggested in amendment No. 2, and to encompass the sentiment behind the amendment. We do not want to be too prescriptive regarding how the CHRE should carry out that objective, because it is important that it work in consultation with patients and the public to determine how best it can achieve it. It has already begun a programme of work that will lead to the implementation of a patient and public strategy aimed at ensuring that it can fulfil the proposed function of becoming an authoritative voice for patients.
In Committee, I confirmed that our reform of the CHRE was intended to ensure that it fits with the new regulatory landscape, including by shifting its role to that of being the independent voice of the patient. I believe that our proposals meet that objective. On that basis, I hope that the hon. Lady will not press the amendment.
Mr. Jenkins: I recognise what my hon. Friend the Minister says, but I also recognise the concern of the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley). Although we have feedback about the group of patients involved and the provision for them, what can my hon. Friend say about the individual patient who, although not alarmed enough to make a formal complaint, feels alarmed enough to feed their concerns into the system? Will he ensure that there is a mechanism to allow the individual patient to do that, and that if enough individual patients feed in their concerns about a health professional, inquiries can be made into that professionals conduct?
Mr. Bradshaw: There are already mechanisms in place, as I am sure my hon. Friend would acknowledge, and it is important that they are sustained. I would encourage all patients and members of the public who have complaints to make to inform themselves of the formal complaints procedure and, if necessary, to escalate that. I also think that more could be done by health care providers to advertise and publicise the existence of complaints procedures. All too often, people are still not aware of their right to complain, where to go or how to escalate their complaints. The new Care Quality Commission and the other independent bodies that we are establishing in the Bill will need to address that as a priority. I hope that that reassures my hon. Friend.
Government amendments Nos. 38 to 61 are, as has been acknowledged, technical and consequential on the changes that we are making to the CHRE and to the OHPA. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Eddisbury for his question on amendment No. 48, because clarification may be necessary. The intention behind the amendment is not to prevent Members of this House from serving on the GMC, and nor is that a result of it, but it would prevent them from serving on the OHPA. I undertake to clarify the issue and respond to the hon. Gentleman. If necessary, it will be addressed in the other place.
Mr. Jim Devine (Livingston) (Lab):
Will my hon. Friend meet me and members of the Nursing and Midwifery Council who are concerned about the
structure of that body? It appears to be very racist and to employ a bullying strategy.
Mr. OBrien: I have listened carefully to the Minister and if there is any residual lack of clarity in the way that I raised the issue of Government amendment No. 48, I suspect that it would be helpful to those who will consider this in the other place to be aware of the intention behind it. If the drafting needs perfecting, I am sure that the other place will have an opportunity to do so. I was baffled by the point raised by the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Devine) in an intervention.
Amendment No. 81 is the lead amendment and amendment No. 2, tabled by the Liberal Democrats, rides with it, so I think I am right in saying that it will not cause a problem if I seek to withdraw it. The Minister went out of his way to try to give me the assurance that I was seeking in relation to the continuing charitable status of the GMC. I heard him say in terms and on the record that that was what was expected and, above all, was the advice that he had been given. I had suggested that we might need to divide the House, but in the light of that assurance I am happy not to do so. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
where section 29 applies, taking action under that section.
Audit Commission Act 1998 (c. 18)
Children Act 2004 (c. 31)
In section 20 of the Children Act 2004 (joint area reviews), in subsection (4), for paragraph (d) substitute
National Health Service Act 2006 (c. 41)
71B In section 35 of the National Health Service Act 2006 (authorisation of NHS foundation trusts), in subsection (3)(a), for the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection substitute the Care Quality Commission.
72D In section 71 of the National Health Service Act 2006 (schemes for meeting losses and liabilities etc of certain health service bodies), in subsection (2)(f), for the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection substitute the Care Quality Commission.
71E In Schedule 10 to the National Health Service Act 2006 (audit of accounts of NHS foundation trusts), in paragraph 8(1)(e), for the words from the Commission to the end substitute the Care Quality Commission.
National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006 (c. 42)
Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 (c. 47)
Meetings of the OHPA in Northern Ireland
(4) Sections 23 to 27 of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972 (c. 9) (which provide for public access to meetings of a district council, the publication of information concerning such meetings etc.) apply in relation to meetings of the OHPA in Northern Ireland as they apply in relation to meetings of a district council but subject to the following modifications.
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