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There is a need for closer integration and improvement of the services needed to care for emergency department patients. For example, those with mental health problems, both acute suicidal ideation and acute psychosis, and those with drug and alcohol problems, need a
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Emergency departments are the 24/7 final safety net for all other services in the healthcare system and they are the last open-access point of call. Escalation of a problem, failure in community care and inadequate out-of-hours primary care support all result in urgent presentation out of hours. Such patients often arrive at night, are unstable clinically and cannot be sent home again, as they are alone or unable to monitor the condition reliably. These 7 per cent to 8 per cent of attendees need to be observed for up to 24 hours in a clinical decision unit, where there is twice daily consultant input, either until they are stable enough to be sent home, or until deterioration indicates admission and ongoing management.
Emergency departments are busy places, providing 24/7 care, looking after patients with wide-ranging needs from resuscitation to reassurance, and interacting with many specialties to ensure the best care. The seriously ill initially need the close interaction of typically three to four specialties; any fragmentation threatens the quality of care.
Commissioning of services in emergency care is optimised by direct and close working between those specialists responsible for delivery and the local commissioners. Given the size and complexity of urgent and emergency care, this should mandate such a specialist on the local commissioning board.
The challenge to us with this Bill is to ensure that commissioning processes recognise that patient choice in emergency care is inappropriate, as every patient needs access to a quality service that is fully integrated with pre-hospital services such as out-of-hours primary care and ambulance services, and with all the back-up and specialist services that patients are moved to for ongoing management.
The national Commissioning Board must work very closely with the College of Emergency Medicine to ensure that commissioning guidance drives up the standards of weaker departments, that the integration of services is included in the commissioning and that the urgent and emergency service for a population has the full skill set to deal with the full range of undifferentiated clinical problems that arrive at the only open access point of care. It is key to local commissioning that specialists in urgent and emergency care are directly involved. Without that, we will replicate Mid Staffordshire, but it may not be evident until unnecessarily large numbers of lives are lost. I beg to move.
Baroness Hollins: My Lords, given the concerns among the medical profession which are still evident, I ask the noble Earl for reassurance that, for those services where commissioning is appropriate, competition will always be on the basis of quality, not price, and that providers will not be able to cherry-pick lucrative parts of the care pathway to the detriment of vulnerable patients, such as people with learning disability or severe mental illness-people that I am particularly
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According to the Guardian, NHS Devon and Devon County Council have shortlisted bids to provide front-line services for children across the county, including some of the most sensitive care for highly vulnerable children and families, such as child protection, treatment for mentally ill children and adolescents, therapy and respite care for those with disabilities, health visiting, palliative nursing for dying children, and so on. On the shortlist for the £130 million three-year NHS contract are two private profit-making companies as well as the Devon Partnership NHS Trust, which has been bidding along with Barnardo's and other local charities.
The contract will apparently be awarded, according to the criteria, to the most economically advantageous bid, which appears to be possible under current commissioning arrangements. I seek reassurance from the Minister that the new safeguards in the Bill also prevent such commissioning decisions risking the perceived risks raised by my noble friend with respect to the commissioning of integrated care pathways in emergency care. I am referring not just to the emergency care part of the pathway but to the whole care pathway, which inevitably requires stable working relationships across organisational boundaries.
Earl Howe: My Lords, this is an important topic. The noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay and Lady Hollins, have eloquently set out the important role that emergency care services play for all of us, and I could not agree more.
The Government are clear about the need to strive continuously for improved quality of urgent and emergency care. The move to clinical quality indicators for A&E and ambulance services will ensure a better reflection of the quality of the services that patients receive, rather than encouraging an isolated focus on time factors. Furthermore, the introduction of the NHS 111 service supports the commitment to develop a coherent 24/7 urgent care service in every area of England that makes sense to patients when they have to make choices about their care.
I hope that I can reassure the noble Baroness about how clinical commissioning groups will be supported in commissioning high quality emergency care. The NHS Commissioning Board will produce commissioning guidance, and also may produce guidance on the exercise of CCGs' duty to obtain advice under new Section 14W. Both of these will reinforce the importance of effective and informed commissioning of emergency care. We have had many debates about clinical advice for commissioners during the course of our deliberations and, as I have previously mentioned, we anticipate that the clinical senates and networks that the Board will host will provide a resource of expertise, including in urgent and emergency care, on which CCGs can draw to inform their commissioning decisions. Equally, in order effectively to discharge their own duties with regard to obtaining appropriate advice, the NHS Commissioning Board would also need to take advice from a range of experts in order to assist them in producing such guidance. I understand that the College
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I reiterate the framework within the Bill for ensuring the accountability of CCGs in relation to the discharge of their duty under new Section 14W. CCGs must demonstrate, as part of authorisation, that they have the competence to carry out their functions effectively, and they will be held to account on that. As part of the authorisation process, the NHS Commissioning Board would need to be satisfied that a CCG can effectively commission the full range of services that its populations are likely to require, which of course would include urgent and emergency care services. It would also need to be satisfied that a CCG had the appropriate mechanisms in place to ensure that it could discharge its duty to obtain the appropriate level of advice in relation to these services. I also reassure the noble Baroness that the performance assessment of CCGs by the NHS Commissioning Board will look in particular at how they have discharged their duty to obtain advice.
The noble Baroness suggested that we should mandate that an emergency care specialist should have a seat on the CCGs' governing body. As your Lordships are aware from our previous debates on membership following the NHS Future Forum report, we committed to use regulations to specify a minimum membership for CCG governing bodies. We plan to specify that each body should include at least two lay members, at least one registered nurse and at least one secondary care doctor. This secondary care doctor may well be an emergency care specialist, or a CCG may choose to add additional specialists to its body should it wish to do so-there is nothing in the Bill to prevent that. However, in terms of going further and specifying that an emergency care specialist must sit on these bodies, I am afraid I cannot go that far.
The NHS Future Forum's report states that it would be unhelpful for CCGs' governing bodies to be representative of every group. We agree with that. The prime purpose of a governing body should be to make sure that CCGs have the right systems in place to do their job well. It is these systems that will ensure that they involve the appropriate range of health and care professionals in commissioning. Requiring a bigger group of professionals on the governing body itself would not mean that a broader range were involved in designing patient services; it would just lead to governing bodies that were too large and slow to do their job well.
Turning now to the noble Baroness's points about integration and competition in the context of emergency care, I agree with her about the importance of integration, and the Bill contains strong provisions to encourage and enable the delivery of integrated services. I reassure her again that choice and competition will not prevent the delivery of integrated services where these are in patients' interests. Additionally, it will of course be for commissioners to decide where to make use of choice and competition in order to best meet their patients' needs, and it is clear that this would not always be appropriate. Emergency care is a good example of a service where we would not expect to see competition.
I take this opportunity to respond to related concerns from the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, who asked about the basis for competition. The Bill is clear that competition will not be pursued as an end in itself and that competition will always be on quality, not price. We made amendments in another place to ensure that this would be the case by removing the ability of Monitor and the board to set maximum prices rather than fixed prices. I hope that that answers the noble Baroness's question on this point.
The duty on CCGs to obtain advice is deliberately wide-ranging in scope purposefully so as to ensure that it covers the full spectrum of services that CCGs will commission. I draw noble Lords' attention to the language of new Section 14W: the advice must be drawn from people,
Baroness Williams of Crosby: I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way. I want to ask one question. I recently met a group of general practitioners who claimed that they were too busy to be able to go out and find advice. Is there any central point, perhaps in the cluster or on the Commissioning Board, to which very busy GPs could go to get some idea about where they might obtain advice on, let us say, an unusual condition?
Earl Howe: I reassure my noble friend that there will be no shortage of advice available to CCGs once they are up and running, not only from the NHS Commissioning Board centrally-she will know that a programme of work is in hand on the part of NICE to produce quality standards that will underpin the commissioning guidance-but also from the clinical senates, which will fall under the wing of the board. We envisage that those senates will be a resource on which clinical commissioning groups can draw, not least in the area of less common conditions. We are very conscious that the quality of commissioning needs to be improved in many areas, and this is our answer to that. My noble friend has put her finger on an issue that is of central importance if the new duty to improve quality is to become a reality across the system.
We are absolutely clear that this covers cases relating both to physical and mental health requiring urgent and emergency care. This definition will apply to the duty to obtain advice in the new Section 14W. I hope I have been able to reassure the noble Baroness that CCGs will absolutely be expected to ensure that they obtain appropriate advice in order effectively to commission emergency and urgent care services; that
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My right honourable friend the Secretary of State and I both recently met with the college and found these meetings useful in exploring how we can ensure that we make the most of the opportunities presented by the new system in relation to improving the quality of emergency care. We look forward to constructive discussions with the college and with the noble Baroness as we move on to implementing the new arrangements.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: I am most grateful to the Minister for that full reply and for his recognition of the contribution that the new College of Emergency Medicine is making to the urgent care of people who are often in extremis. It is literally the life-saving service for many people every day across the country. I am also grateful for his assurance that the performance assessment of commissioners will include how they seek advice from the appropriate people who really know what they are doing, and that integration is assured. The importance of 24/7 recognition has also been brought out in his answer. I am sure that the College of Emergency Medicine will be delighted with the assurances that he has given, as will A&E consultants up and down the country. I am most grateful to him and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"(c) after "such time as the" insert "clinical commissioning group or""
Earl Howe: My Lords, I shall speak also to the other amendments in this group: 12, 13, 15, 16 and 18-29. During Report, the noble Lord, Lord Patel of Bradford, tabled an amendment to Clause 40, then Clause 39, relating to Section 117 mental health after-care services. Noble Lords will recall that in recognition of the strength of feeling on this issue, we did not oppose the noble Lord's amendment. In the same spirit, we have now brought forward a set of consequential amendments resulting from the noble Lord's amendment. Some of these simply tidy up the wording of the Bill as
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I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Patel, has welcomed these amendments, and I hope that other noble Lords will agree that it is important that Section 117 services are included in all of these cases and will support these amendments. I also take this opportunity to ask noble Lords to support two minor and technical amendments. These remove an uncertainty about the breadth of the meaning of the reference to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales in Clause 184, by clarifying that independent advocacy services extend only to certain complaints to that Ombudsman. I beg to move.
Lord Patel of Bradford: My Lords, I am obviously very happy to add my name to the amendments tabled by the Minister in respect of Section 117 of the Mental Health Act, pertaining to after-care services. I was grateful to the noble Earl and to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for not opposing my amendment on this issue. It somewhat caught me off-guard, but I was pleased with that. I was particularly pleased that we have continued to work together to add these technical adjustments today. To remind noble Lords: Section 117 requires primary care trusts and local authority social services to work jointly in providing vital after-care services. These types of services can vary a great deal, including visits from the community psychiatric nurse, attending a day-care centre, administering medication, providing counselling and advice, and most importantly supporting accommodation within the community.
Section 117 provides crucial protection for vulnerable people because it ensures that their local primary care trusts and local authority provider supply that after-care package in an appropriate way, including sorting out the funding on an agreed basis. This means that these essential services cannot be taken away until both the PCT and local authority, in consultation with the patient and their carers or the voluntary sector-the people who are supporting some of these patients-are satisfied that the patient no longer needs their services. The original concern that the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, and I had was that Section 117 after-care was being unnecessarily diluted, as a joint duty to provide after-care was being changed. To all intents and purposes, Section 117 would have been treated as a duty under Section 3 of the NHS Act, and that would potentially have opened up the possibility of charging.
The noble Earl has laid out the protections set out in additional amendments and they are to be welcomed. They go beyond my original concerns and address a number of important issues. I will not list those listed by the noble Earl, but I was happy about the part of
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This is not only the right thing to do, as it will empower people who have been affected by being detained, but it is also likely to help to avoid readmissions by ensuring that people are more satisfied and engaged with services. We still have a long way to go to improve services for people detained under the Mental Health Act; in particular the experiences and outcomes when they return to the communities where they live. However, these amendments are a definite move in the right direction and I must congratulate the Minister for having the foresight and good grace to bring these amendments before the House. I wholeheartedly support them.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, in this group of amendments there are two that relate to Wales. On behalf of the NHS in Wales, I am most grateful for the clarification. Could the Minister confirm that the Public Services Ombudsman would deal with complaints by any provider who is providing services for and on behalf of the NHS, irrespective of whether that is an NHS provider or a non-NHS provider? It would be helpful to have that clarification.
Baroness Jolly: My Lords, I shall speak briefly to Amendments 15 and 16 as well. They seem to be another correction to the minutiae of the provisions to establish a system of "nothing about me without me"-patient and public involvement-which we all support. However, it seems counterintuitive to aim to empower local people to improve health and social care without checking with them on the detail of how that empowerment should take place. The checks and balances of local patient and public involvement will be particularly important as the rest of these reforms are implemented, so we must get it right now.
Most of this part of the Bill was subject to a redraft, just a week or so ago, without any public consultation. Therefore, it would be helpful if the Minister could give an undertaking that there will be public consultation on all the many regulation-making powers within it. Thirty-six provisions are dependent on regulations, as are two lots of statutory guidance and two lots of directions.
In all previous iterations of patient and public involvement structures, there has been consultation on regulations. Given the complexity of the latest set of provisions and the limited opportunity to scrutinise them, it would seem wise to consult on them. I hope that the Minister will confirm that this will be done.
Earl Howe: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Patel of Bradford, for all that he said. I hope that the House will accept the amendments,
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To address the issues raised by my noble friend Lady Jolly, as my noble friend Lady Northover said on Report, we have always envisaged that local authorities will have some freedom and flexibility over the organisational form of their local healthwatch, depending on local needs and circumstances. On reflection, we felt the Bill did not provide the right legal framework for this policy to be realised. My noble friend Lady Jolly makes a good point about the need to get this right. I should like to reassure her that we have already begun to engage key stakeholders on the content of the regulations and will continue to do so while they are being developed.
It may also be helpful to point out that we envisage the content of a number of these regulations-for example, those on the duties of service providers to respond to local healthwatch and allow entry to local healthwatch-will be based on the current Local Involvement Network regulations.
The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, asked me about the Welsh amendments. I can confirm that the ombudsman covers all patients funded by the NHS. It is not something that is judged on an organisational basis. I hope that is helpful.
(a) in section 223K(8), paragraph (a) of the definition of "relevant services",
(b) in section 244(3), paragraph (a)(i) of the definition of "relevant health service provider",
(c) in section 252A(10), the definition of "service arrangements",
(d) section 253(1A)(d)(ii)."
( ) In section 48 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (special reviews and investigations), in subsection (2)(ba), after "the National Health Service Act 2006" insert "or section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (after-care)".
"( ) On abolition of the Health Protection Agency, the appropriate authority in England will take steps to ensure that any organisation established to assume the Agency's functions (and any others deemed appropriate) will-
(a) have a Board with a non-executive Chair and a majority of non-executive directors;
(b) be able to undertake and publish independent research and to bid for research funding from any source; and
(c) be able to tender for contracts related to its functions."
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, Amendment 56 is simpler than the amendment I tabled on Report but it is necessary because I need some undertakings. I know that other noble Lords also seek those. The amendment concerns Public Health England. Both amendments found favour across the House in the previous debate, as I hope Amendment 14 will in this one. I thank noble Lords who have put their names to the amendment. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg also wished to put his name to it, but there was no room on the Marshalled List.
As I said, the amendment concerns Public Health England, the new body that is destined to take on the duties of the Health Protection Agency, the cancer registries, the National Treatment Agency, the Public Health Observatories and some of the functions of the regional directors of public health and their teams. The staff of Public Health England will number around 4,500 people, so it is an important and considerable agency. The original proposal was that the organisation should be governed by a civil servant acting as the chief executive, without a board to whom he or she would be accountable. It was a model that many of us found very strange and thought unworkable.
At the meeting we had with him and later in correspondence, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State made it clear that he values an unobstructed line of accountability between the individual charged with the day-to-day running of Public Health England and him. However, he agreed in his letter, which I received on 15 March, that Public Health England,
"I do accept that, if PHE is to achieve our ambitions for it, the chief executive and the Secretary of State should be seen to be subject to frank and expert challenge. To help deliver that challenge I propose to appoint a chair for PHE, through an open and fair competition under the public appointments process, and I will ensure that the PHE board has a majority of non-executives members".
Later, he refers to them as non-executive members, rather than directors, so I seek an assurance from my noble friend Lord Howe that we are talking about directors and not members. Perhaps he will confirm this.
The board will advise on the running and development of Public Health England but my right honourable friend states that he has not yet had time to consider details of this aspect of the chairman's role. Once the chief executive post has been filled, he will discuss the overall governance structure of PHE. He will want to
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"The essential point is, that we need to design a role for the chair that is significant enough to attract a high quality, respected candidate without diluting the responsibility of either the chief executive or the Secretary of State".
It is very much my wish that he should involve me further in these proposals. He says that he will write to me, but I should very much like him not only to write but perhaps to seek my views on this aspect of the organisation.
Could my noble friend tell me what "section" means in this context, as he will know that the annual report will be a crucial document and should be honest and unfettered in its analysis of the nation's health? He continues:
"The annual report will reflect feedback from external agencies and individuals who have significant dealings with PHE ... and PHE data will be subject to the code of practice on official statistics, which severely restricts access to certain material by officials or Ministers before release".
Although I very much welcome this, I wonder whether my noble friend could give me an assurance that Public Health England staff will be able to give professional advice freely to the public. Since they are employed by an executive agency, they will be civil servants-subject to Civil Service contracts and bound by the Civil Service Code. They will be able speak out only if what they plan to say is departmental policy and has been approved by Ministers.
If PHE is to be the voice of public health, as we hope it will be, it will need to be able to advise the public and other professional bodies. The experts and specialists working in the executive agency will on occasions need to give professional advice that has the confidence of the public without its necessarily having been approved by the department.
Public health specialists employed by the NHS Commissioning Board or a local authority will have the freedom to speak out-of course within their professional code of conduct. I am not seeking for the amendment to be placed in the Bill but an assurance that this difficult tension will be addressed.
In earlier debates, the noble Lords, Lord Warner, Lord Patel, and Lord Turnberg, voiced their strong concerns about the commissioning and conduct of research by PHE-in particular, its ability as regards research funding for external organisations. I am sure that those noble Lords will seek assurances on this.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State writes that he accepts the importance of the issue and will publish a more detailed description of PHE's role in research, including its relationship with academic institutions and other agencies. I am delighted that he is happy to involve me and, I hope, other noble Lords with the Chief Medical Officer in further discussions on this issue.
We have come a long way since Committee in designing a much more robust and satisfactory national board to undertake responsibilities for public health. Public health is sometimes seen as a side show in the maelstrom of issues that dominate the provision of NHS services but it contains the basic principle of social justice. It is to ensure that people have access to the essentials for a healthy and satisfying life, and nothing can be more important than that.
The Secretary of State has throughout sought to make public health centre stage, and I pay tribute to him for his commitment and determination, and thank him for listening to and acting on our suggestions. My noble friends Earl Howe and Lady Northover have been equally diligent and generous with their time in meeting our concerns. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, and others would have preferred there to be a special health authority. I can understand their wish, but the flexibility that an executive agency gives us might be useful in the future. The Secretary of State has promised post-legislative scrutiny of the Bill, specifically to consider whether PHE would be better served by a different arrangement or a better organisational form. I welcome that.
I have quoted fully and, I suspect, rather boringly from the letter sent by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State because it is very unlikely that my amendment will be in the Bill. I therefore need a record of the changes that have been promised. I do not doubt for a moment that there is any intention to renege on these undertakings, but I know how easy it is for things to go astray. I am therefore anxious to get as much as I can into the pages of Hansard as a reference for the future. I very much look forward to hearing the views of other noble Lords and my noble friend's reply. I beg to move.
Lord Warner: My Lords, I have put my name to the amendment and pay tribute to the hard work put in by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, on making progress in this area. It has occasionally seemed a little like trudging through the Somme mud, but we have made some progress. I share her view that we want to hear at length from the noble Earl about the assurances promised by the Secretary of State, particularly on the governance issue.
I want to raise in a little more detail the issues in paragraphs (b) and (c) of the amendment, regarding the ability of Public Health England to undertake and publish independent research and to bid for research funding from any source. This remains an unresolved issue. The dialogue is continuing in the Department of Health because in November a joint working party was set up between the Health Protection Agency, which is being abolished, and the department about the research activities of the new Public Health England. I remind noble Lords that this is particularly significant because at stake is the large sum of money that the HPA, as a non-departmental public body, raised for research, its own funding of research, as well as the scientific independence and excellence of its staff. There has been a great deal of concern that creating an executive agency with civil servants would make it difficult for that research quality and volume to be maintained in the new world.
Despite the Health Secretary's assurances, concerns emanating from within the current agency remain around whether things have really been sewn up in terms of the ability of PHA, within the resources available to it, to control its destiny in the future and to go out to seek the research contracts that will enable it to meet the threats and concerns about public health that may have to be faced.
The nub of this issue comes down to a simple matter that I should like to leave with the noble Lord and on which I ask him to provide assurances. My understanding is that the problem at the moment is that the department has taken funds from the Health Protection Agency and Public Health England and made them available only for academic partnership research projects. The concern is that this might lead to Public Health England being prevented from carrying out research if that was not flavour of the month in academic institutions. There could be conflict between the concerns of academics to pursue partnership research and the real needs that the scientists within Public Health England consider to be in the public interest in terms of the research agenda to be followed. That is the main unresolved issue causing concern to the scientists within the Health Protection Agency staff who are soon-to-be-transmogrified into Public Health England.
The more assurances that the noble Earl can give the more they will satisfy not only the signatories to the amendment but the future employees of Public Health England who are to transfer as scientists to the new organisation.
Baroness Jolly: My Lords, I have put my name to the amendment. Historically, both parties to the coalition were in agreement that there were too many quangos and that rationalisation was required. This is always difficult when it involves an organisation as well respected as the Health Protection Agency and others.
Its successor organisation, Public Health England, was going to take over the HPA's and have duties with regard to the new structure of public health at local government level. However, that had no place in the Bill. On these Benches, we welcomed the move to ground public health in local authorities, and we welcome the statements by the Minister about the role, responsibility and duty of this newfound position.
However, we were anxious about public health at a national level. We were not alone, and I pay huge tribute to my noble friend Lady Cumberlege, who took up this cause at Report stage-probably before then-along with the noble Lords, Lord Patel, Lord Turnberg and Lord Warner. The Secretary of State now sees PHE as carrying out his functions. I am grateful for the time that he gave to meet us to explain his point of view and listen. He felt that to make Public Health England an executive agency of the Department of Health would give it a degree of separation and flexibility. It was argued that PHE needed to have not only an independent chair but a board with a majority of non-executive directors if it were to have credibility with professionals and the public, and for
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I hope that the Minister will state that the Secretary of State is convinced that all of this is now a shared vision. However, as I stated earlier, none of this is stated in the Bill. My noble friend said that she will not push that, and I certainly will not, but I regret it, as it would be beneficial and make a really bold statement to the world outside that Public Health England is core to the Bill.
Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, the Health Protection Agency is held in high esteem throughout the world. It does the most important work in protecting society from infections and epidemics. The National Blood Service can be the blood of life. It is vital. Can the Minister give an assurance that the HPA will not be downgraded in any way? I support Amendment 14 and hope that the Minister will accept it. If he does, that will give some assurance to some of the people who have concerns about the changes. With so many complicated conditions, research should not be restricted and funding for this must be free and seamless.
Will Public Health England work with other countries? Infections have no boundaries. One never knows what is around the corner. The work of the body should be as independent as possible. Otherwise, we will lose some of our brilliant researchers to countries which will give them more freedom.
Lord Turnberg: My Lords, I rise to speak briefly, because much of what I might have said has already been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege. I, too, am very grateful for the way that the noble Earl has listened to us and spoken and written to us with helpful comments, which I hope that he will reiterate today. I just want to make one point about the research undertaken by the current HPA. It is directed predominantly to infectious disease and bacterial and viral infections. In that area, it is really world-beating. Recently, two of its members of staff have been elected fellows of the Academy of Medical Sciences, which is quite an achievement. The idea that it should do all this research in academic research partnerships with universities is unhelpful. Although collaboration and co-operation with university departments is enormously valuable, it should not be a precondition that it should
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Lord Patel: My Lords, I shall speak very briefly. I spoke at length in Committee and on Report and I shall not repeat what I said. Other noble Lords have referred to the key issues. If Public Health England is to be a strong, high-profile, public health national organisation, it needs strong governance. It also needs the independent ability to bid for research funds, as the HPA currently does, as has been highlighted, both nationally and internationally. At the Report stage, I referred to the fact that the HPA currently gets a significant amount of contract research income from NIH. It is no easy task to get money from NIH for research. If it is forbidden to do that, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, said, is allowed to do research only with academic institutions, and not independently, that will be wrong. I hope that the noble Earl, who has listened to the arguments in the meetings we have had, will be able to alleviate those anxieties.
Lord Beecham: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, on the enormous effort that she has put in to moving the Government's position somewhat although, as she says, in the view of some of us, not quite far enough.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, referred to a degree of separation. I would rather that we had six degrees of separation; I think that we will probably have to settle for the current single degree of separation. That is slightly unfortunate, because, as other noble Lords have stressed, the question of independence of the organisation is crucial. In moving the amendment, the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, raised that issue and mentioned the Civil Service code and the possible inhibitions on employees of Public Health England and what was the Health Protection Agency in giving that advice independently and openly.
Bearing in mind the discussions that we had earlier this afternoon about the relationship between civil servants and Ministers, I hope that the noble Earl will address that, if not today in his reply then subsequently, to explain how that relationship will work and to confirm the complete independence of members of staff in advising not only Ministers but, as the noble Baroness said, the public. I reinforce the points made by other noble Lords. I think we got a verbal assurance from the Minister last time, but I would like it fully explained that the research capacity of the organisation will be maintained.
The amendment is slightly more modest than originally proposed by the noble Baroness, and even more modest than some of us would have liked. For the life of me, I cannot see why the noble Earl should not be able to accept it. If he is not prepared to do that, perhaps he will explain why. At the very least, I hope that he gives the assurances and undertakings that the noble Baroness has sought and that we can take forward this part of the Bill, which in turn complements the best part of the Bill, which relates to public health in general.
Earl Howe: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for the opportunity to return to this issue and for the extremely constructive and sincere manner in
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The Health Protection Agency has built an enviable international reputation that Public Health England must first live up to and then surpass. I take on board the question posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, about downgrading. No, of course we want to build on the HPA's undoubted achievements and have Public Health England seen as a world leader. All the current activity undertaken by the Health Protection Agency will transfer to the Secretary of State.
With that in mind, we have listened very carefully to what my noble friend and others have had to say and thought long and hard. I am happy to set out to her fresh proposals to meet her concerns and to build on the undoubted successes of the Health Protection Agency and the other organisations that will evolve into the new organisation.
The Bill gives a new and vital duty to the Secretary of State, and only to the Secretary of State, to protect the health of the people of England. To a very large extent, Public Health England will exist in order to help him to discharge that duty. It is for that reason that we feel we must preserve a very direct and clear line of accountability between the chief executive and the Secretary of State. While Public Health England undoubtedly needs operational independence to be most effective-a point raised by a number of noble Lords-it will be essential for it and the Government to work together seamlessly and to share the same objectives. Anything less could severely limit the Secretary of State's capacity to undertake his statutory duty.
This is not, however, to say that the Secretary of State and the chief executive can operate in isolation, or behind closed doors. On the contrary, if PHE is to become a respected world leader-as is our ambition for it-we accept entirely that it must be subject to frank, forthright and expert challenge. My noble friend and other noble Lords have made their case cogently and persuasively, and we agree that this level of challenge can best be delivered by a board with both an independent chair and a non-executive majority. I can assure noble Lords now that that is precisely what we intend to establish within Public Health England.
We intend the board and chair to provide invaluable advice on the running and future development of PHE, but, if my noble friend will permit, we would like to take a little more time to define the role of the chair in more detail. Interviews for the post of chief executive are about to begin, and we want to ensure that the skills and experience of the successful candidate will be complemented by those of the chair. I would be happy to continue discussing this with my noble friend as we take things forward. She asked whether the non-executives on the board will be members or directors. The crucial issue here is what the board will actually do. PHE will not have a board of directors in the way
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We are now in the process of establishing a detailed framework for the way PHE will operate which will address its relationship with local and central government, as well as with the general public. That framework will, of course, be published. However, I can say now that as well as appointing the board and chair we will take a number of other steps to highlight and support the operational independence and transparency of PHE.
Earl Howe: I think that the noble Lord asked me whether the board will be an advisory board or a board. Its function will be to provide advice. It will be a board, but the Secretary of State and the chief executive of PHE will look to the board for that robust challenge and advice that a public health service needs.
Lord Willis of Knaresborough: I am grateful to my honourable friend-I am sorry, I mean my noble friend; I keep calling him honourable, but I am sure he is as well-for that response to the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg. The issue is really quite fundamental. If what my noble friend has described is a purely advisory board, the board will not therefore be able to take any executive decisions about the nature of the research that it carries out; that will be totally dependent on the Secretary of State passing it down. Is that so? If so, how in fact will it interface with, for example, the new European programme, programme 8, in terms of European-wide research on public health?
Earl Howe: No, my Lords, my noble friend is not correct. It will be able to take decisions. What it will not be able to do is to bind the Secretary of State because, ultimately, if there is an issue of public health importance, it is the Secretary of State who must take responsibility for that. This said, Public Health England will of course be its own master as regards the research that it undertakes, and it will be operationally independent, as I emphasised earlier.
We will ensure the chair's direct access to Ministers through regular and ad hoc meetings. The chair will have its own section in PHE's annual report which it will draft personally and independently, and that report will also reflect the views of external agencies and individuals who have dealings with PHE. I hope that that gives my noble friend additional assurance about the independent voice that we want to see and hear.
My noble friend Lady Cumberlege asked me whether PHE will be able to give professional advice freely to the public. We expect it to do precisely that, in much
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PHE data will be subject to the code of practice on official statistics, which severely restricts access to certain material by Ministers or officials before it is published. Within three years of PHE becoming operational we will undertake a review of its governance to ensure that it is entirely appropriate and effective.
My noble friend's amendment also addresses the very significant issue of PHE's capability to undertake research and to bid for external research funding-a matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Warner, devoted particular attention. This is something we have touched on in previous debates, and it is clearly vital to PHE's long-term success. We will publish more information about how PHE's research function will work, including its relationship with academic institutions, but I can assure noble Lords that it will be able to exercise all the necessary powers and duties of the Secretary of State in relation to research.
In particular, Clause 6 confers on the Secretary of State a duty to promote research relevant to the health service, which embraces public health services. Clause 11 specifies that the conduct of research is an appropriate step for him to take under his health protection duty. Clause 50 provides that charges may be made in respect of such steps. Clause 17(13) confirms the Secretary of State's power to conduct, commission or assist research relating to health, which includes the power to apply for grants or other funding for the purpose of such research. In addition to the Bill's provisions, the Secretary of State has power to generate additional income for the health service under Section 7 of the Health and Medicines Act 1988, which can be used by PHE to provide research services under contract. I can therefore reassure my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Warner, that existing legislation gives the Secretary of State, and therefore PHE, the freedom to bid for research funding and to tender for contracts.
The noble Lord, Lord Warner, asked about external partnerships and whether agencies that currently fund the HPA research will be able to fund PHE in the future. The answer is that we are not aware of any insurmountable obstacle to any of the HPA's current partners choosing to fund PHE, although in some instances PHE may need to collaborate with an academic institution. Of course, we cannot guarantee that they will choose to. All we can do is ensure that PHE remains at least as attractive a partner for health protection research as the HPA has been. I can also say to the noble Lord, Lord Patel, that we will publish more information on this question quite soon, but we have no reason to believe, as I say, that academic institutions will be reluctant to go into partnership with PHE. In fact, the National Institute for Health Research has already announced that it will invite joint bids.
Lord Warner: I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl. I waited patiently until he had been through the research arguments but I am still not clear. He said earlier that Public Health England would be master of its own destiny in terms of research. The point that I and, I think, my noble friend Lord Turnberg were making was that, if it comes to a tussle between PHE and the National Institute for Health Research over doing research which PHE considers to be in the public interest but there is no academic partner to undertake that research, will PHE's mastery of its own research destiny trump the attempt by the National Institute for Health Research to impose partnership working on the research agenda? That is the issue that I was trying to talk about and which I think my noble friend was also talking about.
Earl Howe: My Lords, although I understand the noble Lord's question, I do not think that I can answer it at the moment, and I am sorry to disappoint him. My advice is that we do not think that partnerships will be necessary in all or every case for Public Health England. Whether the NIHR can insist on trumping the operational independence of Public Health England is not a question that I can answer very readily. The main point is that research would not have to be jointly conducted. The Secretary of State has the power to carry it out on his own. That means that, if there were a tussle between two priorities, the Secretary of State could insist that a certain programme should be prioritised. I think that that is probably as far as I can go in answering the noble Lord at the moment.
My noble friend Lady Jolly asked me some general questions about lines of accountability. I hope that she will have gathered from my remarks today that Public Health England will be accountable directly to the Secretary of State in the first instance. Directors of public health will be joint appointments between local authorities and the Secretary of State, although they will be local authority employees and directly accountable to the authority chief executive. It goes without saying that close joint working between PHE and local authorities will be crucial.
My noble friend's amendment and the powerful way that she has argued for its objectives are a tribute to her and to the noble Lords who have supported her. I believe that I have responded positively to each point that the amendment seeks to establish and that that response can be made comprehensively without amending the Bill. That remains our strong preference. I hope very much that my noble friend is sufficiently reassured by the commitments that I have made today to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, I have no intention of testing the opinion of the House this evening. We have negotiated long and hard with my noble friends Lady Northover and Lord Howe. It has been a very interesting experience. Those noble Lords who have supported me by putting their names to my amendments have tutored me well in the art of negotiation. It has occurred to me that clearly you can negotiate only if both parties are willing to participate, and in this instance that has been the case. The Secretary of State, my noble friend and noble Lords have been more than
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I know that my noble friend Lady Jolly wanted the amendment to be made to the Bill and for those words to be included in the Bill so that the constituency in the country-all the public health people involved-would see what we are trying to achieve. I knew some time ago that that would not be possible, and we have had a very full debate today, albeit at Third Reading, because we are very anxious to get all those assurances articulated and recorded in Hansard.
We will be keeping a very close eye on the development of Public Health England and I shall be framing the assurances that I have been given today. I shall have them on my wall and, when there are new Secretaries of State, I shall present them with this framed undertaking so that we can absolutely ensure that Public Health England goes from strength to strength and, as my noble friend said, is a world leader and, I hope, a world beater. We have a very good reputation in the world on public health. It is something that we must retain and improve upon, ensuring that we have a healthier nation for the future. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
(ca) a complaint to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales which relates to a Welsh health body;"
(a) a Local Health Board,
(b) an NHS trust managing a hospital or other establishment or facility in Wales,
(c) a Special Health Authority not discharging functions only or mainly in England,
(d) an independent provider in Wales (within the meaning of the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Act 2005),
(e) a family health service provider in Wales (within the meaning of that Act), or
(f) a person with functions conferred under section 113(2) of the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003."
(1) Health care support workers in England may enter a voluntary register assured by the Council for Health Care Regulatory Excellence, provided they have attended an assured training programme prior to entry on the register.
(3) The Secretary of State shall develop a Code of Conduct for all employees (whether or not entered on the register) who are providing care to NHS patients (including employees of local authorities) who are seeking to develop the necessary competencies for health care support work.
Baroness Emerton: My Lords, the amendment concerns the power to register healthcare support workers in England. I shall try to be brief, as we had a long and thorough debate on this matter on Report and I have studied the Minister's response to my amendment at that stage. I have had protracted discussions between Report and now with the noble Earl and officials, and I thank them most sincerely for the time and effort they have put into trying to meet my requests.
Healthcare support workers form a very large part of the workforce, whether they are in the employment of NHS hospitals, community services or local authority services, providing care in people's homes, or in the large number of nursing and residential care homes. We should not forget the role played by social workers, which often overlaps with the role of healthcare support workers, and vice versa.
Many noble Lords have said in previous debates that large numbers of support workers provide high-quality care, and they have received some training in order to do that. It is not likely that this large number of support workers will decrease with a growth in demand from the rapidly expanding number of elderly, frail and vulnerable people who require high-quality care. However, it is also not possible to expect a magic wand-that is, the Government-to provide training overnight for everybody at once. Therefore, it is reasonable to find a way forward that provides a direction of travel that satisfies patients, the public, the professions and employers that the issue is being addressed as a matter of urgency within the economic situation in which we find ourselves.
I shall briefly address each item covered by the amendment. The Minister has indicated that Skills for Care and Skills for Health will be producing an assured training programme, prepared with professional inputs, that will, following consultation, be available for implementation in 2013. This will entitle successful candidates to be entered on the voluntary register if they so wish.
I am aware, and pleased, that the Minister has also agreed that work should proceed on reviewing the research on ratios of registered to unregistered personnel, and that the supervision of work delegated to registrants is vital. However, realistically, in some communities and hospital situations it is not possible for there to be close scrutiny of support workers' performance. The recent report published by Which? clearly demonstrates neglect in the delivery of care to patients and in their safety. Clearly, the Government need a means of early identification of the failings in the delivery of care.
While the training programmes are being developed, perhaps we could ask, through the Minister, that registered nurses and midwives are reminded of their responsibility and accountability, that they have to
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I now turn to the second subsection of the proposed new clause. It is recommended that the next logical step would be to aim for the training of support workers to be mandatory. So far discussions on making the training of healthcare support workers mandatory has not found favour with Her Majesty's Government. Many Peers indicated, on Report, the importance of all healthcare support workers receiving mandatory training and that it should be regulated. Although it is recognised that that could not be arrived at tomorrow, if Her Majesty's Government could agree that the training programmes will be mandatory at a date to be determined for implementation, I am sure that the patients, the public and certainly the professions of nursing, midwifery and social care would be satisfied.
Subsection (3) of the proposed new clause requires the Secretary of State to develop a code of conduct for all employees whether they are entered on the register or just providing care. That includes the employees not just in the NHS hospitals but also in local authorities. That would provide clear guidance for employers as well as employees and should assist in ensuring that competences, where lacking, are made good by training modules or by withdrawing the person who does not have the skills or the competences. Without such controls of clearly defined competences being included for practising healthcare support workers and the correct delegation and supervision by registrants, it will be impossible to ensure the high-quality, safe, compassionate care that patients and clients deserve or indeed Her Majesty's Government aim to provide. I hope that the Minister will feel able to provide a positive response to this request.
Subsection (4) requires Her Majesty's Government to carry out a strategic review within three years, as the Minister undertook to do on Report, about whether statutory regulation of support workers is necessary in the light of progress with the proposed training programmes and the introduction of the voluntary register. Perhaps I may suggest that the review of the research on improving the ratios of registered nurses and midwives is also included in this review so that a holistic view can be gained of the future shape of the workforce required to deliver high-quality, safe and compassionate care, with the result of improved clinical outcomes that are cost-effective and of cost benefit. I beg to move.
Lord Patel: My Lords, on Report, I spoke strongly in support of the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Emerton. I thank the Minister for the many conversations that he has had with my noble friend and myself to try to resolve some of the issues. Like the noble Baroness, I am most appreciative of his readiness to meet and speak with us on many occasions.
We have about 450,000 healthcare support workers and some have had some training and therefore perform the tasks that they are given with fairly good competency. Others do not have any training and they might perform the tasks that they are given at variable levels. We also heard on Report from the noble Lord, Lord MacKenzie, and my noble friend Lady Emerton about the kind of tasks that healthcare support workers currently carry out. They range from simple nursing care or bathing or feeding duties to cannulisation and bladder catheterisation and even more invasive procedures than that. That should confirm to us that there is a need for some kind of standardised training programme that healthcare support workers must undertake so that their competences are assessed and so that they work to those competences. It is not fair that those healthcare support workers who have had some training and are competent to perform their duties have to work alongside others who have not had any training and, therefore, are lacking in competences.
On Report, one of the many things that the Minister agreed to take forward in relation to healthcare support workers, if I quote him correctly, was to try to establish assured voluntary registration, which the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence will run. If we are to have any kind of register, surely ipso facto certain conditions must be satisfied before someone can go on to the register. Logically, that would suggest to me that there must be some form of training. If that is the case, why would we object to having training as a requirement for all new healthcare support workers? I well understand that it is not impossible, but very difficult and expensive, to try to train some 450,000 people who already carry out such tasks. That could be overcome by having a code of conduct imposed on employers; it would be their duty to ensure that whoever they employ has the competencies to do the tasks that they are asked to undertake. It would not be vastly expensive to get 450,000 people trained. Subsection (2) of the proposed new clause refers to "mandatory" training-I use the word "requirement"-for all new healthcare support workers from April 2003 before they go on the assured voluntary register.
I take a slightly different view about whether the register is voluntary or statutory. I know that the word "statutory" to all healthcare workers is important. I am registered by statute to be on the medical register but it is more important that the register has some meaning and that it works. If a voluntary register does not work, it is no good; if a statutory register does not work, it is no good. It is important that people who go on the register are trained and assessed as having those competences. Subsection (4) of the proposed new clause, to which the Minister agreed previously, requires that a review will be carried out for the benefit or otherwise of any kind of register that is established. I hope he will agree to that. I hope that the Minister will be able today to reassure my noble friend Lady Emerton.
I have been very touched by what my noble friend has said in the many conversations that she has had with me. To me, she typifies the attitude of a very caring nurse who is concerned about the poor quality of care seen in daily reports in newspapers; there was also a report yesterday from Which?, to which she alluded. That clearly affects her as a professional nurse. Therefore, I strongly support her amendment.
I had hoped that the House might have agreed the need for statutory regulation and registration for healthcare support workers, but the Government should at least accept this amendment. It provides for a code of conduct, for mandatory training, which must be to an agreed standard, and for a requirement to have undertaken an assured training programme before one can enter the voluntary registers that are to be set up. These things should all be in the Bill; they are necessary to protect the patient and the public.
Training, in my view, has to be mandatory; it cannot be left to the whims of employers to decide how much or how little training to give to healthcare support workers. I know from nurses, including my step-daughter, who is a registered nurse, that some of that training is good, some of it is patchy and some of it is shockingly poor. Some of it is supernumerary today, on the team tomorrow; see a procedure today, carry out that procedure tomorrow. That old system of training has no place in the modern delivery of nursing care, but it is what many healthcare support workers have delegated to them.
The Minister knows my views about voluntary registers, but I have no wish to see them fail. If they are to succeed, every effort must be made to ensure that those who are eligible get on to these registers. He will correct me if my memory is playing tricks on me, but I seem to recall him saying at an earlier stage that employers could require someone to be on a voluntary register before appointment or promotion. I have no quarrel with that if we are properly to protect the public, but I want to know whether an employer can do that. If, say, there are two candidates for promotion with very similar training and experience on their CVs, but one is on the voluntary register and one is not, will the employer be able to refuse to see the person who is not on the voluntary register? I wonder what an employment tribunal might make of that.
I hope we can have an assurance that employers will be able to discriminate in this way, because I am concerned that everyone who should be on the register is on it. We know that rogues and rascals and those who are less than suitable are the ones who are not likely to want to be on a voluntary register, which is why I prefer the other course. However, we are where we are and I hope that the Minister can at least reassure us on this point.
Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, I have my name to the amendment. During the passage of this Bill, some of us have been trying very hard to improve the care of vulnerable patients in hospital and in the community. I felt healthcare support workers should be registered and regulated, as many vulnerable patients, being frail and elderly or disabled in many diverse ways, have to rely on their carers. Your Lordships have heard that patients have been put at risk or died through neglect or assault in care homes and hospitals up and down the country. Many people wait in anticipation for the result of the review of the Mid
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I have every admiration for the Minister, who has worked tirelessly over this Bill, but I do not agree with him that nurses who have been struck off their register can go back to caring for patients as unregistered healthcare assistants. We are exposing the most vulnerable in our society to greater risks and poorer care if we do nothing to prevent struck-off nurses continuing to work in a caring profession. This amendment is a compromise, but even so it has a very important part. Subsection (2) of the proposed new clause in the amendment states:
Not to train people who care for vulnerable patients is deplorable. Last year I was involved in a case of a person living at home and using a respirator. The patient was left brain damaged when the agency nurse turned off the wrong switch. Adequate, appropriate training should be given; in that case, it was a health care worker who was also a nurse.
Many disabled people are living in the community, which is good, but many of them use technical equipment that needs training and understanding, such as hoists, pressure mattresses, peg feeds, catheters, complicated electric wheelchairs, ventilators, nebulisers, diabetic management, colostomies, adapted vehicles and many other complicated devices. An assured training programme should include where to place a patient's food and drink and to assess whether the patient can feed themselves. If not, the healthcare worker should know how to do this; how to wash and bathe and deal with personal needs such as toileting; how to prevent pressure ulcers; moving and handling; and complications with patients who have problems and may be difficult and have a problem communicating. There are many needs, but kindness and common sense should prevail.
If the Minister and the Government do not agree with this amendment, it will mean they do not understand the needs of vulnerable patients' care. If training is mandatory, I am sure employers will take notice.
Lord Cotter: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Emerton, for introducing this amendment, which I hope the Minister will agree gives an opportunity for a very important issue to be aired. Many noble Lords have aired it in the past; indeed, I raised it on the very first day of the Bill. It is an area that remains of concern, and I have been pleased to hear from the Ministers that they are well aware of this. I recollect at the beginning of the Bill speaking to a nurse who, with an air of concern in her voice, said that when she asked assistants to carry out work the responsibility remained with her if that work was not carried out correctly. I welcome this opportunity for the Minister I hope to give a very strong response to indicate the Bill will cover this issue. As the noble Lord, Lord Patel, said, we are talking about 450,000 healthcare assistants: many people of varying abilities and knowledge.
I will say no more except to thank the noble Baroness for her amendment and, in anticipation, to thank the Minister for his response, which I hope will be robust and clear as to what we are going to do to address this concern.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My noble friend Lady Emerton, in tabling this amendment, has come up with something very sophisticated and really rather clever. By requiring education, she will ensure that the next group has its standards driven up. People enter into a caring group and learn from others around them; the problem is that at the moment they are learning bad practice as well as, hopefully, learning good practice.
Making sure that these are assured training programmes is eminently sensible. Modern educational techniques using e-learning, DVDs and other ways of training mean that you do not have to take people away from the job and put them in college. They could be given provisional registration while they worked through some of these training programmes. Modern ways of teaching also allow you to train those with very low literacy skills. It is worth remembering that some of the very high-standard care assistants in the system providing care in people's homes often have low levels of literacy, so they need to be taught using modern techniques. This will allow that to happen. As for tracking their attendance, with electronic records it becomes quite easy to monitor what they turned up for and how they performed and to assess them in the tasks that need to be undertaken.
Baroness Cumberlege: As a fellow of the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives, I very much regret that I have been unable to take part in the previous debates initiated by the noble Baroness, Lady Emerton. I regret that for many reasons, not least because I had the privilege of introducing the noble Baroness into your Lordships' House, and what a good thing that was. The noble Baroness is a truly remarkable person. I am not at all surprised that she has crafted this very clever amendment, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, said. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Emerton, recognises that statutory regulation will not always prevent abuse. Indeed, the chief executive of the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence told your Lordships at a seminar that the regulator is never in the room when abuse occurs.
I understand that the noble Baroness is calling not for regulation but for a voluntary register assured by the CHRE. People will get admittance to the register provided they have attended an assured training programme. The training programme is to be mandatory for all new healthcare support workers from 1 April 2013. I understand that that is where the Government have something of a problem because of the numbers and costs involved, as the noble Lord, Lord Patel, said.
However, is it not right that good employers should pay the registration fee and have some element of discrimination in deciding who they recruit to a job?
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On Report, the noble Lords, Lord Turnberg and Lord MacKenzie of Culkein, referred to the history of state enrolled nurses. Unlike registered nurses, they were said to be used and abused. I remember that because I served with the noble Baroness, Lady Emerton, on the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting where, over time, we phased out state enrolled nurses. They have been replaced to some extent by healthcare support workers, and we are facing almost the same issues again.
In the previous debate, my noble friend Lord Newton and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, were very kind to mention my role in nurse prescribing. I am delighted to see the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, in her place. I remember the day when we rejoiced in the fact that nurse prescribing had gone another step on the way. It took me 26 years to get that to happen-a very long time indeed-and we are not quite there yet. It seemed to me that nurse prescribing was extremely obvious. In the light of today's debate on risk and risk registers, it probably would have been seen as a very high risk, but it has not proved to be so-but we are not there yet. I am very much hoping that, with the help of my noble friend Lord Henley and the Home Office, the last piece of this jigsaw will be put into place.
We started very small with nurse prescribing. We started with Bolton. The whole of Bolton took on nurse prescribing. In some parts of the country, the fight was enormous. GPs saw prescribing as their territory, and they did not want nurses to step into it. We managed to achieve it, and one of my real worries is that if we have support workers who, as the noble Baroness told us in the previous debate, are administering some very serious drugs, the work that I have done will be diminished because people will then think that nurse prescribing can be done by anybody with sufficient training, and that is dangerous. It is wrong for patients, and it is wrong for support workers who have perhaps been told that they have to administer these drugs.
I shall finish by reminding your Lordships that when Florence Nightingale visited front-line hospitals in the Crimea, the first question she asked was: who is in charge? For every patient in today's National Health Service, it is as relevant a question as it was 150 years ago. Who is in charge of my daily care? Too often, it is an unsupervised healthcare support worker. That is not right for the patient and not right for the worker. I think we have to do something about this.
The noble Baroness, Lady Emerton, has put so much thought and effort into her amendment, has taken lots of advice and has worked so hard on this issue. We must resolve it. As other noble Lords have said, the code of conduct is a very good step forward,
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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Baronesses, Lady Cumberlege and Lady Emerton, and other noble Lords who have spoken have argued pretty persuasively for statutory regulation. I think it is a pity that the noble Baroness, Lady Emerton, did not put her amendment to the vote on Report because there is a great deal of support in this House and outside it for statutory regulation. I do not know whether the Minister will accept this amendment, but if the noble Baroness wishes to put it to the vote, we shall support it.
If we look at the first part of the amendment, as I understand it the Minister gave an assurance on Report that the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence would provide some assurance to voluntary registers. If the council is prepared to undertake the work to provide some assurance for voluntary registers, I cannot see why it could not have done that for statutory regulation. I have yet to hear one argument by that body or anyone else about why there should not be statutory regulation on this.
I note that the assured training programme is to be mandatory. It is all very well to say that it is mandatory to attend a training programme, but I would rather like to hear that someone has passed some kind of examination and achieved a qualification rather than that they merely turned up and got ticked in-although we know about being ticked in in your Lordships' House.
On proposed new subsection (3) in the amendment, my reading is that this will not cover nursing homes. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, expressed concern that a nurse may be struck off the register of qualified nurses but turn up at a nursing home the next day. However, my reading of this subsection is that it relates only to the care of NHS patients. Clearly, there are large parts of the care market to which this does not apply, and the most vulnerable part of care is healthcare assistants working in the independent sector without much supervision.
On proposed subsection (4), the disappointment is that the noble Earl said that the Government would agree to review this after, I think, three years. That would take us to 2015. We know that it would take two or three years to establish statutory regulation, so we are talking about five or six years from now, according to this amendment, when we would achieve statutory regulation. I am sure that that is the journey that we are on; I am disappointed that it will take so long to get there.
Earl Howe: My Lords, we have already had considerable debate on standards and training for healthcare support workers at both Committee and Report stages and I have set out the Government's view that compulsory statutory regulation is not the only way to achieve high quality care.
We have made it clear that we recognise the need to drive up standards for support workers and to facilitate employers to appropriately employ, delegate to, and supervise health and social care support workers. We
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We have therefore commissioned Skills for Health and Skills for Care to work together to develop a code of conduct and minimum induction and training standards for those support workers working in support of nurses and for adult social care workers. We fully expect this code to make crystal clear the primacy of patient safety, and how support workers must flag concerns to their supervisors. It would also be relevant both to employees and to employers. These will be developed by September 2012, with a view to enabling them to be adopted as the standards for an assured voluntary register from 2013 onwards. They will, for the first time, set a clear national benchmark around the training and conduct of support workers.
In taking that work forward, we expect Skills for Health and Skills for Care to engage with nursing professionals, including educationalists, and the standards will link to the Nursing and Midwifery Council's updated guidance on delegation. We have also said that we will ensure that the delivery of training for healthcare assistants who are entitled to be included on a voluntary register is professionally led. Further, we remain committed to exploring the evidence base relating to ratios of qualified to non-qualified staff, and we will look carefully at the evidence from ongoing work by King's College.
Our proposals stop short of imposing mandatory requirements on employers, as it is our view that assured voluntary registration, underpinned by the Care Quality Commission's registration requirements, is likely to be adequate to assure standards. However, we recognise that there are concerns that voluntary registration may not be adequate and therefore, once a system of assured voluntary registration has been operational for three years, we will commission a strategic review of the relative benefits of assured voluntary registration, compared with statutory registration.
The noble Lord, Lord MacKenzie, asked me whether employers would be able to require workers to be on registers. The answer is most certainly, yes. There are already precedents where employers require, for example, clinical perfusionists or non-medical public health specialists to be on voluntary registers, so we do not see this as a problem.
Turning specifically to the purpose of the amendment, to require mandatory assured training for all new healthcare support workers by 2013, I view that as a big-bang approach-if I may put it in those terms-and I have considerable anxiety that it carries a real risk of overwhelming the system in terms of allowing time for an assured training programme to be developed and implemented. Furthermore, I need to bring to the House's attention that the introduction of mandatory training would have a significant cost impact on employers across a short period.
The department commissioned an independent analysis of the costs and benefits of regulating around 250,000 domiciliary care workers in 2009. This work indicated that, with a requirement that all workers would have to achieve an NVQ level 2 over two years, or have made good progress towards doing so, the costs would be in the region of £435 million over 10 years. The costs of registration, which would have been met by workers, were only around £70 million over 10 years, with the remaining £360 million or so primarily relating to the costs of providing training, which would primarily have fallen to employers.
Therefore, there are good reasons why we cannot just commit to introducing mandatory training in the current difficult public spending environment, without a clear evidence base for doing so. However, that is where the review comes in. I can confirm that we will consider whether there is a case for mandating training as part of that review, and an appropriate timetable if it were to be introduced.
Allowing for a three-year period once such voluntary registers have been quality-assured by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care is important. The size and complexity of the workforce we are discussing has already been recognised in our earlier debates. Therefore, in order to ensure that the review is fair and evidence-based, we need to allow an appropriate time period for the assured registers to operate and three years from Royal Assent may not allow sufficient time, for the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, alluded to, given that it may take some time to get to a point where a register is properly established.
The scope of this amendment is only healthcare support workers, and I understand the reasons why the noble Baroness has raised it in such limited terms. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland, recognised in our last debate on this matter, the care workforce is significantly wider than that of healthcare support workers. Our proposals recognise this and include provision for common core training and a common basis for a code of conduct.
I know the noble Baroness would like us to go further. However, the review to which I have already committed will provide us with a clear evidence base for any further measures needed to assure the standards of healthcare support workers and we will then consider the need for further measures in light of that review. In view of the proposed review and the ongoing role of the Professional Standards Authority in monitoring voluntary registers, I do not see the need to go any further in terms of rolling out the programme with pilots or some such, but we are more than willing to maintain a dialogue with noble Lords and the profession on what is clearly an important issue.
I also listened to the noble Baroness's point about the importance of staffing ratios, particularly with regard to midwives, and I can confirm that we will keep these issues under close consideration.
I hope the noble Baroness will be at least partially reassured-maybe substantially reassured-about the general direction of travel here and of our commitment to strengthening the assurance processes in place for healthcare support workers and that, as a consequence, she will feel able to withdraw her amendment at this point.
It seems as though we have been discussing this very real issue for months. We have spent the afternoon talking about risks and my concern has always been that the result of not providing training and support to support workers is a risk to patient care- and we will be taking a real risk if we have to wait the length of time proposed by the Minister. Work is going on at the moment in preparing the voluntary register, which will be ready in 2012, and I would have thought it would have been possible for the Government to say that from thereon they would expect candidates who are taken on to enter that training.
The public, patients and professions need an assurance that the risk at which we are placing patients is being addressed. The Minister has set out a timetable, but it is a very long timetable for patients who are receiving care today and tomorrow. They are at risk unless there is a registered nurse who is able to assess the competencies and support workers who are competent to deliver.
I appreciate what the noble Earl has said and the situation that we are in-I said in my speech that we have to be aware of the economic situation-and that we have to be assured that whatever we do is of benefit to patients and is cost-effective. However, I am not sure that we will be doing that by accepting the proposed timetable and I would like to test the opinion of the House.
(a) for "a Primary Care Trust" substitute "a clinical commissioning group",
(b) for "the trust" substitute "the group", and
(c) at the end insert "; and the references in this subsection to a clinical commissioning group are, so far as necessary for the purposes of regulations under subsection (2E) of that section, to be read as references to the Board."."
(a) after "by a" insert "clinical commissioning group or", and
(b) omit "Primary Care Trust or".
"(6C) The references in subsections (6A) and (6B) to a clinical commissioning group are, so far as necessary for the purposes of regulations under section 117(2E) of the Mental Health Act 1983, to be read as references to the National Health Service Commissioning Board.""
As an amendment to the Motion that the Bill do now pass, to leave out from "that" to the end and insert "this House declines to allow the Bill to pass, because the Bill does not command the support of patients who depend on the National Health Service, the professionals who are expected to make it work, or the public; will not deliver the promised objectives of genuinely empowering clinicians in the commissioning process and putting patients at the heart of the system; will increase bureaucracy and fragment commissioning; will allow foundation trusts to raise up to half their income from private patients; and, despite amendment, still creates an economic regulator and regime which will lead to the fragmentation and marketisation of the National Health Service and threaten its ethos and purpose."
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, it is indeed rare for this Motion to be moved in your Lordships' House. We have come to the final stage and the final reckoning of this Health and Social Care Bill. I have thought long and hard about whether this was the right thing to do. We have to balance the reasons for moving this Motion against the reasons for allowing the Bill to pass with the ritual congratulations and mutual sighs of relief. The test for the House surely is whether this Bill will deliver an NHS that is better for patients. Most importantly, does this Bill fulfil the Government's stated policy aims? Much as I wish that were the case, I think that this Bill does not pass that test.
That being said, there is no doubt that the Minister has achieved a remarkable result. No one else but he could probably have achieved so much. The politics of the Bill, and the relationships in this House between the coalition partners and between the Government and the Cross Benches could not have been dealt with more gracefully than by the Minister. The Government owe the noble Earl, Lord Howe, a huge debt of gratitude and, indeed, so does this House.
There is no doubt that this House has made this Bill more respectable in some areas. We know that for example, astonishingly, it came to us with little or no mention of health education, training or research-remarkable, really. We have undoubtedly made some progress on issues such as the Secretary of State's powers and there is no doubt that many noble Lords, particularly on the Cross Benches, have worked incredibly hard and tried to put right as much as they could. I congratulate them all.
The tipping point for me, and what decided me to consider this action, was quite recent. It was when I realised with the further dozens of amendments proposed by the Minister on the arrangements for local healthwatch, the patient's voice, the Government had vanquished all hope of any coherent, strong, local patient organisation. We all recall the mantra at the start of this journey, "No decision about me, without me". At the end of this journey, what do we find? The national independence of the patient's voice, HealthWatch, is a mere sub-committee of the CQC. We have the complete removal of the statutory basis for local healthwatch, which it now appears will be run as some kind of local authority franchise and will not deliver a strong patient voice any time soon. We should stop pretending that, "No decision about me, without me," holds any credibility at all.
The second major platform for the Ministers who introduced this Bill was another mantra-the liberation of GPs and more recently, clinicians. Greater involvement of clinicians in commissioning is a laudable aim, with widespread support. This House should look beyond that aim to ask if the Bill will deliver this in reality. As the Bill has progressed, GPs and other clinicians have become increasingly aware that the promised liberation will not come. GPs have no greater commissioning powers than existing PCTs and less support in delivering their functions and many have come to realise that they are being set up to be the local fall guys for commissioning services from a budget that must be cut by 4 per cent per year. Clinical commissioning groups are complaining that this is not what they signed up for. They are being offered all the responsibility and none of the power.
We need to remember that these two factors-liberating patients and liberating GPs-were the cloak behind which the rest of the Bill stood. However, we on these Benches were never deceived. We have said from the outset that the purpose behind this Bill was to prepare the way ultimately-though perhaps not for several years-for the fragmentation of the NHS, with hospitals competing instead of co-operating and using the rule of contract and lawyers instead of collaboration to solve problems. The Liberal Democrats have speeded Andrew Lansley on his way.
Thirdly, we were promised less bureaucracy. We now have a veritable alphabetti spaghetti of a structure. We have the Secretary of State, the Department of Health, the national Commissioning Board, four regional hubs, 30 clinical support units, 250 clinical commissioning groups, 50 national Commissioning Board outposts, 15 senates, HealthWatch, health and well-being boards, the CQC, Monitor and the new public health structure. Again, Ministers have comprehensively failed to deliver their own promises of less bureaucracy.
Finally, we have precious little coherence to the interface between health and social care in this Bill. When some of us tried to improve the working together of health and social care, which is vital to the success of both sides, the Minister refused and the government parties voted against it. It is the case that Part 3, the introduction of the forces of market competition into a fragmented NHS, where the inserted duties of
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The proposed biggest experiment on the NHS ever is reaching its conclusion, but unlike most experiments, we have not been allowed to know all the evidence. Last Tuesday on the final day of Report the Minister made a final and devastating admission, and I thank him for his honesty. He said:
That sends a chilling message from this Chamber to the professions and to the public. We have the cliff edge in front of us and the Government finally acknowledging that nothing they have done has won over those who now have to make this tangled mess work. Nothing has persuaded the professionals or the public-all of this time, the pause, the concessions. Nothing has worked.
Last week the Minister went on to promise more consultation. I have a question for him. Given that the Royal College of Physicians has come out with very grave reservations only this weekend and that No. 10 and Department of Health appear to be refusing to talk to any organisation that has asked for the Bill to be dropped, who is this consultation to be with? Can the Minister confirm that, for example, the following organisations will be on the invitation list this time-the Royal College of General Practitioners, the BMA and the Faculty of Public Health, to name one or two that have made their views on this Bill known?
It is often said that this is a House of wisdom and expertise. I invite noble Lords to listen to the wisdom and expertise of those in the NHS whose message is deafening in its consistency-they do not want this Bill. I would not have thought it possible, but this Bill has been haemorrhaging support for almost two years, and now has very few friends. Despite that, we need to be deeply grateful that we can rely on the professionalism and the conscientiousness of doctors, nurses, physios, surgeons and many others who are now considering how they can salvage this Bill and keep the show on the road.
There is no doubt that many noble Lords have worked incredibly hard to try to turn this sow's ear of a Bill into a silk purse worthy of passing from your Lordship's House. I pay huge tribute to those efforts, to which we on these Benches have contributed. However, improving a bad Bill into a Bill that is marginally less destructive is not a good reason to vote for its passage. We have to look at the whole Bill, not just the parts that individuals have championed, and ask whether we have succeeded. I regret our failure on these Benches, but I regret more that noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches were unable to find their way to vote for measures that could really have protected the NHS. We tried and we failed, but at least we tried. The patients and staff of the NHS know that we have tried and that we have not been diverted from that purpose. The people know that it was the Labour Party which created the NHS. It has been the Labour Party in opposition which has tried so hard to
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Lord Dubs: My Lords, I shall speak very briefly as the House wants to move to a vote. I support this amendment and would like to pay a tribute to my noble friend Lady Thornton for the work that she and her team have put into this. Without the backing of a government department, they have performed heroically and very effectively.
I want to give only one personal reminiscence. The National Health Service started on 5 July 1948. I was a child in hospital on that today; I was quite ill in Stockport Royal Infirmary. The consultant and his team came; in those days one either had to stand to attention or lie to attention when the consultant came with the matron and the team of junior doctors. Momentarily, he stopped at the foot of my bed and I said, "Are we going to celebrate? Are we having a party?". He asked, "What are you talking about"? I was the only child in the ward, so it was cheeky of me but I said, "Well, the hospital is ours today-isn't it wonderful?". He walked on without saying anything, but it was a momentous day and I never thought that, 64 years later, I would be here at Westminster and lamenting what has happened to our beloved National Health Service. Let me conclude by quoting Nye Bevan, who said,
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, it is with a very heavy heart that I feel I must stand up and record that many of the voices outside, who are very scared about this Bill and what it means, are people who are of no particular political persuasion. Yet they are worried about the problem of lack of financial transparency, about the number of private healthcare companies incorporated in offshore jurisdictions-which they see may evade taxes of various types-and about the commissioning process. They are also concerned that the use of public money in the healthcare system will slowly be obscured like a great iceberg wrapped in fog. They will work to deliver whatever is needed for the patients in front of them. The vast majority of them stand to gain nothing by this Bill passing, but to gain nothing either if it does not pass. They want to improve the standards for their patients, and indeed they argue for change.
The noble Earl has worked tirelessly and has confidence across the whole House. Everybody, however much they have been concerned about this Bill, owes him an enormous debt of gratitude for the way that he has listened to every single one of us, at all times of the day and night, and weekends and so on. But we should not let this Bill pass without recognising the enormous concerns there are outside this House among those who will be delivering healthcare, now and into the future, in whatever form it takes.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, this has been an extraordinary parliamentary process. When this Bill was introduced, I said at Second Reading that it was a bad Bill. It was a
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There is no doubt at all that on a spectrum of bad to good, it has shifted very considerably. It shifted in the Commons; it shifted far more here in the House of Lords. I believe that the process in your Lordships' House has been the House of Lords at its best. This House can be proud of the work that it has done throughout the gruelling Committee stage, then during Report and again today. I regret that I could not take a detailed part in much of that, because I was then spending time as a patient of the NHS, but I have been watching it all and I believe that the work this House has done has been absolutely superb.
If I can make a party political point here for a moment, the work that our team has done on the Bill, led by my noble friend Lady Jolly with all my other noble friends who have taken part, has contributed well. I refer not only to the Liberal Democrats but to Cross Benchers and everybody around the House. Tribute has been paid to the Minister. I pay particular tribute as a Liberal Democrat to our person on the ministerial team, my noble friend Lady Northover, who from our point of view has played a very important part by being a link into the Government and getting many of the changes which have taken place.
It is about not just the changes to the Bill but the implementation-the work that starts after this Bill has been passed, as no doubt it will be today. A huge number of ministerial assurances have been made, which may or may not be put upon people's bedroom walls as the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, wants to do with hers. Nevertheless, this is a Bill which has had more outside scrutiny and involvement from people out there, as far as the House of Lords is concerned, than any other Bill I can remember in 12 years in your Lordships' House. That will continue with the implementation, and it is absolutely crucial how the Government now implement this Bill. Will it be gung-ho privatisation, which is what people were very frightened of when the Bill was first introduced and many are still frightened about, or will it be implemented in a cautious and careful way to allow the health service to breathe and to cope with the changes? This will be absolutely crucial, and we will know the answer to that in a year or two's time.
The noble Earl, Lord Howe, said that we have had debates of unparalleled length and scope, and that is true. However, as I have just said, the public interest and lobbying on this from outside has been unprecedented. One of the lessons that we all have to learn is that we-whether the House of Lords, members of the Government or our party-have not coped with that very well. I do not think that the Opposition coped with it terribly well either because, even this morning,
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Several people have said, "We have been trying to follow this Bill. We have been trying to follow your Marshalled Lists, having discovered where to find them on the internet. We have been trying to follow the parliament channel, and we haven't understood a word of it. It is interesting, but we can't understand it". I have to tell them that that applies to quite a lot of Members of your Lordships' House while the Bill is going through.
Lord Greaves: I am coming to that. So having said all this, why am I going to vote for the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton? I will do so very unhappily because I do not like voting against my noble friends, particularly when they have done so much hard work and achieved so much. I do not like voting against the party anyway but, having looked at it, it seems to me that the safeguards which have been achieved are not sufficient. Having read the latest version of the Bill which we got at Third Reading, I think it is inevitable that this Bill will lead to greater commercialisation. It will lead to a greater emphasis on competition rather than integration, and to a continuing incursion of private sector-based companies into the provision of NHS services. It is undoubtedly a radical top-down restructuring, in direct contradiction of the coalition agreement that I signed up to. That is being imposed on the health service at the same time as it is struggling with the biggest financial problems that it has had for many years. This is all in the face of the overwhelming opposition of NHS staff, professional groups, patient groups, public opinion and, indeed, a majority of people in my own party and of people who vote for us.
Lord Greaves: I am just saying what I think, and I have a right to do that. I believe that my party is being extremely brave in supporting this Bill as it now exists. I also believe that my party has had a bit too much of being extremely brave in recent times, but nevertheless, it is. I voted against this Bill at Second Reading; I will do so again now in favour of this amendment.
Now I feel very much like little Johnny, marching along, and all the rest of my party are out of step. I think that I am in step, and I think very hard indeed about this. Your Lordships' House as a whole, and the Government, are the people out of step-certainly out of step with opinion in the country and in the health service. However, I agree entirely with what the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, said, about what now matters
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There has been a lot of alarmist talk. It probably will not amount to much, but it is up to everyone in the health service, and to us here as we scrutinise the regulations, to ensure that it does not. I am frightened by this Bill and I shall vote against it.
Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I have not yet spoken on this Bill. Could I ask the Minister a very practical question? If the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, is passed, what on earth will happen to this Bill? What I understand might happen is that in due course it would be passed by the Commons but without the amendments of this House. The result of that would mean that the enormous amount of work done by everybody in this House to improve this Bill would be totally lost, and the Bill as it left the Commons would be the same Bill that went through it. Is that what we want?
Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, made some very complimentary comments about me at the beginning of her remarks and I thank her for those. Therefore, it is a cause for sadness to me that we have reached this final stage of the Bill in a climate of antagonism rather than of the mutual good will that typically characterises the end of a long parliamentary process in this House. That good will is still present, but it has perhaps been temporarily overshadowed.
I am sorry that the noble Baroness, for whom I have enormous respect, has taken the unusual step of tabling this Motion. It will not surprise her to hear that I disagree utterly with her summary of what this Bill will achieve, but it is not my intention to rehearse the arguments for it all over again. I did that at Second Reading and throughout subsequent stages of the Bill, when we debated at length and in depth the detailed provisions within it.
It is disappointing, too, that this Motion, so negative in its tone and content, is the only amendment which the Official Opposition have seen fit to table on our final day of debate. It stands in marked contrast to the highly constructive approach taken to Third Reading by Peers on all Benches, and indeed to the approach of thoughtful testing and challenge to the Government which the Labour Front Bench has adopted hitherto. I believe that we have used today's Third Reading to good and positive effect. The noble Baroness, on the other hand, has chosen today to stand aside from that approach.
Our debates over the past six months have taken a total of 25 days. Over the course of that time the Bill has changed a great deal. From every side of the House amendments have been moved and many of them have been accepted, on all key aspects of our proposals. Indeed, if we cast our minds back to last
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"I hope we will find the Minister in a listening and negotiating mood. Perhaps he will recall that when I took another rather controversial health Bill through this House, on foundation trusts in 2003, I moved or accepted some 200 amendments. So that is the benchmark for judging the flexibility of the noble Earl opposite".-[Official Report, 11/10/11; col. 1547.]
In this House I have moved or accepted some 375 amendments, including accepting amendments from all sides of this House. Indeed, I am aware that this represents a quarter of all amendments that have been tabled. We have made a Bill whose key principles command wide acceptance-more joined-up, clearer and, in certain aspects, less risky. That is greatly to the credit of noble Lords and to this Chamber. The scrutiny and improvement which has gone on has shown your Lordships' House working at its very best and I thank noble Lords involved for their constructive participation and debate. There are too many for me to mention by name. However, I will make one exception, because I would especially like to thank my noble friend Lady Northover for her staunch support from the Front Bench, particularly in the light of her other commitments within this House.
My final word of gratitude, however, must go to the Bill team, who have been outstanding throughout the entire parliamentary process-not only in support of Ministers but also being available to assist Peers of all parties and of none in clarifying, informing and explaining whenever they have been asked to do so. They have been tireless and supremely professional over many months and they deserve our warm thanks.
This is not Second Reading. It is not the time to grind axes. It is time to reflect on the past six months, to await the consideration that the other place will give to the substantial efforts that have gone on in this Chamber and to look forward to the close engagement between the Government and all our key stakeholders on how we can collectively make the most of the opportunities that the Bill presents. I will oppose the noble Baroness's amendment, and I strongly urge noble Lords to do likewise.
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, the time has come for a vote on this matter. I add my own thanks to all noble Lords for the work that they have done on the Bill. I pay tribute to the huge efforts that have been made and the commitment that noble Lords show to doing their job as legislators. I thank my own support on the Front Bench, my noble friends Lord Hunt, Lord Beecham, Lord Collins and Lady Wheeler. I could not have been better supported.
Unlike the Minister with a cast of thousands, I have had a small but perfectly formed team of about three, led by Jessica Levy in the opposition office and with my intern Tom Woodford keeping my papers in good order. However, we on these Benches have also been supported and sustained in our consideration of the Bill by literally thousands of people across the country. I say to the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, that it is actually up to the Government what they do about the Bill if they lose this vote.
Perhaps the Minister might agree that this parallel universe that we inhabit in your Lordships' House,
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I feel like saying to noble Lords, "Hands up those who have received letters and e-mails supporting this Bill". I had two, among a torrent of e-mails, tweets, texts and letters asking us to drop the Bill or dramatically change parts of it. We have received thousands of expressions of concern. Noble Lords have reacted variously to that, and I think that the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is right to say that in some respects parties have reacted well to this but not in others. It is clear that there are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people watching us and what we do, and it is for those people-the nurses, the doctors, the healthcare assistants, the patients, my mum with her COPD, my cousin whose daughter has just been diagnosed with a brain tumour, and the hundreds of thousands of people who have signed petitions, sent letters, gone on demonstrations and continue to make our beloved NHS work-that I wish to test the opinion of the House.
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