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The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Lyell): As the noble Baroness has spoken at length, I wonder if it might be in order for me to offer others the opportunity to comment on what she has said. She can then wind up afterwards.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: In that case, I beg to move.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: I am grateful to the Deputy Chairman of Committees for allowing us to say a few words. I am particularly interested to hear what the Minister has to say about the amendments.

Subsection (1) relates entirely to,

Those are the matters on which the Wales Centre for Health must make information available to the public. It must also research those issues and provide training in them. I am not sure how wide a scope the clause provides for the WCH. I should like to hear the Minister's views.

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The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, would like to include education as well as training and would like the WCH to be able to facilitate as well as contribute to the provision of education and training. Again, I should like to hear how the WCH intends to fulfil that function.

I support the amendment, because training alone spells something less than education—covering short courses and the like that may be run by anyone, anywhere. Education is a more respectable description for these serious and important matters.

5 p.m.

Baroness Andrews: I am sure that the Committee appreciates that it is always a relief to me when the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, decides not to press her amendments. We know from long experience that she has challenged the Government on medical matters to great effect.

The function of the Wales Centre for Health is to help to tackle the legacy of ill health that has been specific to Wales and has set it apart from the rest of the United Kingdom. It will do so by providing independent health advice and supporting and initiating research, by providing and developing training programmes and identifying gaps in information and by focusing on the strategic development of public health skills. That covers a range of issues for which we have not had the capacity to date. Even though the centre will focus on research and development, it is bound to have training and education implications. I shall explain. However, we would have had difficulty in accepting that it was necessary to include the term "facilitate" in the Bill because we believe that the WCH's public health training functions are clear.

In response to the noble Lord's question, I shall enumerate some of those functions. The current wording of the Bill is intended to enable the centre to carry out a wide range of training activity. It includes: working with other parts of the UK to develop new national standards for public health; specifying competencies for public health practitioners; scoping the current training and development programmes among senior professionals in the NHS, local authorities and the voluntary sector; developing and implementing a national programme of training for public health practitioners in Wales; providing fellowships for non-medical people to become accredited public health specialists; developing inter-professional and multi-professional training in health protection for the NHS and local government; developing training for local authority members; and providing awareness training for health professionals about immunisation and vaccination programmes or potential biological or chemical threats.

The shadow body has already begun to scope some of those functions and has been working with the Velindre Trust. We are already beginning to see developments. Clause 3 encompasses all those

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activities, and we believe that they imply the term "facilitate". So it is an unnecessary addition to the Bill. Schedule 2(20) gives the centre general powers to,

    "do anything which it considers necessary or expedient for the purpose of, or in connection with, the exercise of its functions".

So the centre has the scope to develop those areas of its work as it sees appropriate.

The intention behind Clause 3 is to give the centre a role in developing education and training in public health skills for public health practitioners and specialists, in particular by encouraging joint training between different professional groups. The Bill was framed deliberately with the intention of not giving the centre a duty to contribute to basic professional training. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, said that she spoke to professionals in the field who explained that the inclusion of the term in the Bill would have created a problem. Responsibility for the level of competence demanded by basic education is a matter for professional and regulatory bodies. If we gave the centre a duty to contribute, it would cut across those responsibilities. Obviously the amendment would have resulted in a conflict of interests with, for example, the medical committee of the GMC, which has a statutory responsibility for medical education, and the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which has a similar responsibility under the Medical Act 1983.

In any case, consultation with education providers would be essential before imposing a duty. If the Assembly had contemplated placing that duty on the centre, it would have had to consult the bodies first. We are sensitive to the important issues raised.

I hope that I can reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, that their concerns can be met in other effective ways. There is no reason why the centre should not advise education providers on the public health element of basic professional education. I hope that the outcomes of research and development will be fed into the postgraduate and undergraduate syllabuses in due course as we learn more about the epidemiology of Wales and the proper way to respond through public health. If we are serious about making a link between research and policy, that is exactly what we would want to see happen. We would want it to feed into not just the policy-making process but also into the intellectual capital of medical education.

It is hoped that we shall see a broader platform as the centre works with education providers on public health training. The centre's existence will raise the profile of public health in Wales, which is an extremely important function. It will encourage the identification of issues; it will be a source of information on public health issues, and it will also be a source of evidence, whether working alone or in partnership with other bodies—academic, voluntary and so on.

The current provision in the Bill is sufficient to cover advising on public health education to any education provider that may need or want such advice. If the Assembly wished to make that more explicit, it could also do so through its powers under Clause 3(3) to

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confer additional functions on the WCH. But, in view of the implications that that could have for other bodies in Wales, it would not be advisable to impose on the WCH the duty proposed in the amendment. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for agreeing to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: I am grateful to the Minister for explaining to the Committee what was explained to me privately outside. I apologise for having been so keen to accept the reassurances that I nearly denied the Committee the benefit of hearing the information. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, for his support for the spirit in which the amendments were tabled. With the reassurances that have been shared with the whole Committee, and which I received privately, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 11 not moved.]

Lord Roberts of Conwy moved Amendment No. 12:

    Page 2, line 24, at end insert—

"( ) liaise with other bodies in Wales and elsewhere in the United Kingdom having similar functions"

The noble Lord said: The amendment would ensure that there is liaison between the Wales Centre for Health and other bodies with similar functions, especially in the United Kingdom, to avoid costly duplication of effort and to secure a high quality of service. Although Wales certainly has distinctive health problems, as we all know, it also shares many such problems with other countries and the rest of the UK. Liaison and knowing what is going on world-wide is all-important in the medical field, as most experts would agree. I know from my presidency of the University of Wales College of Medicine and other sources how important international medical knowledge and research are, and how important it is for teachers and practitioners to be familiar with the latest developments in their particular area of expertise.

With the new centre coming on-stream, it is important that its members should be aware of what is going on in Wales, its two universities and colleges. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Morgan, for leaving out at Second Reading Aberystwyth from my catalogue of colleges active in the health field. It simply proves the point that there is a need for constant awareness of what is going on—that applies to the private sector also.

So I make no apology for seeking to include this amendment, which would impose a duty on the new centre to liaise with other bodies engaged in similar areas of public health research and training. Incidentally, the centre seems to be still in the developmental stage. That is an additional reason why it should have a constant reminder of the need to look outside itself. I beg to move.

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