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But the more significant difficulty is that in Wales we seem to have created something unique yet again. There are no equivalent or similar bodies to the Wales Centre for Health in Wales or elsewhere in the UK. Many bodies carry out some of the functions of the centre but there is no equivalent duty on them to liaise with it. Whereas a responsibility to liaise would lie with the centre, there would be no equivalent responsibility or reciprocal requirement on other bodies to liaise back. So we feel that to enforce such a duty would impose an unreasonable burden on the centre. It might affect its efficiency and effectiveness in carrying out its work. It would add to its responsibilities in a way that might not add to its value. It would be serious if the amendment constrained the centre's freedom of action, its ability to act on its own initiative, or its scope.
I hope that I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, that Schedule 2(20) gives the centre the power to co-operate with other public authorities. That means that it will have the power to co-operate with local authorities, health authorities, the research community and voluntary organisations. If it determines that in its work co-operation and communication are important and necessary, we fully expect it to do so.
In its very short life, the shadow body has already collaborated with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the USA in its public event on the health effects of the Nant y Gwyddon landfill in south Wales. So it has already sprung into action. By definition, it is to have a close working relationship with the new national public health service. It will establish links with the two nearest equivalent bodies in Englandthe Health Development Agency and the public health laboratories. It will also establish contact with the public health institutes in Scotland and Ireland. So, as part of its public health agenda, it will be properly joined up with other bodies.
Concern was raised that the centre should be able to access information and contribute to the academic community's growing body of knowledge in general. It would be a poor centre if it did not do that of its own volition. As regards the quality of its own work, we fully expect centre staff as good academics and medical researchers to be in tune with, and in contact with, their peer groups wherever work relevant to their understanding of a project is being done. We must
Lord Roberts of Conwy: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her words. In particular, I was delighted to learn that the body set up in shadow form was already liaisingalthough that may be an adequate wordwith other bodies in which it was interested, and whose interests it shared. My sole point in moving the amendment is to seek to avoid costly duplication of efforts. Although we have very specific health problems in Wales, we share other health problems with other parts of the United Kingdom and the world. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: I have no intention of moving the amendment, except by the Committee's request. No such request is made, and I am not depriving anyone of an opportunity to speak on this group. Their substance was discussed in another place, and we understand their purpose. Therefore, I shall not move the amendment.
The noble Lord said: These are probing amendments to find out what functions the Government have in mind to be carried out by Health Professions Wales on behalf of the Assembly other than those specified in subsection (4). Perhaps the Minister can help us on this matter.
Amendment No. 17 would make the nature of the functions specific to healthcare professions and workers. Without that, it would seem that the Assembly could burden HPW with almost any function within the scope of health legislation. Amendment No. 18 has a serious intent in that it seeks to protect standards and to ensure that any training arrangements entered into are not below the standards required by the UK councils for which HPW will be acting in Wales. I beg to move.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, for raising these interesting points. Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 would prevent the Assembly from directing HPW to carry
Amendment No. 16 would remove the power for the Assembly to request HPW to carry out any function not included in the Bill, while Amendment No. 17 would prevent the Assembly from directing HPW to carry out functions on its behalf unless they were directly related to healthcare professions and healthcare support workers. Both would constrain HPW in its aim of ensuring a fully competent and flexible workforce for the NHS in Wales by restricting the type of services that it could be asked to provide.
The Assembly has wide powers and duties in relation to the provision of a comprehensive health service. Those functions do not relate solely to the healthcare professions and support workers, but will have implications for them. The intent of subsection (3) as it stands is to allow the Assembly the necessary flexibility to devolve such of its functions as it deems appropriate to be exercised by HPW in relation to health professions and support workers as provided by subsection (2).
Amendment No. 18 would restrict HPW from entering into any arrangement with other bodies that could lead to the creation of professional and educational standards that differ from those set by the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the Health Professions Council. While it seeks to ensure that training standards for healthcare professionals are uniform across the UK, I hope that the noble Lord will not mind me saying that it is an unnecessary amendment. It misunderstands the nature of the arrangements that HPW may enter into. Such arrangements will be entered into by agreement with the standard-setting bodies. HPW will not be empowered under such arrangementsI hope this reassures the noble Lordto act in any way that is not acceptable to those bodies. HPW may undertake functions on behalf of the standard-setting bodies and in doing so will apply their standards. HPW will not be involved directly in setting standards; its role will be to ensure that UK-wide standards are applied in Wales.
The regulatory bodies are responsible for the monitoring of educational standards in the UK. Currently, the Nursing and Midwifery Council has a service level agreement with HPW to carry out quality assurance activities in Wales on its behalf. There is also a similar provision in the Health Professions Council order. HPW should be able to assess the need and to support the development of post-registration education and training of professions according to the workforce planning initiatives and the health policy development in Wales.
The amendments would frustrate one of the main policy intentions behind setting up HPW and would seriously limit the work that HPW can undertake in the development and improvement of learning opportunities and the continuing professional development activities available to health professionals working in Wales.
I hope that I have convinced the noble Lord that the Assembly
needs such flexibility to use the knowledge and expertise
that HPW will have in order to support and to develop the
workforce of the NHS in Wales and that the amendments would
serve only to restrict such flexibility.
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