Health and Care Bill

Thank you to those who took the time to contact me about the Health and Care Bill, and I do appreciate the concerns my constituents have shared with me.
As I have received correspondence on the different amendments proposed to this Bill, I thought it better to answer in full here why I have voted in the way that I have.
Firstly, I know that some constituents are concerned about accusations about privatisation of the NHS and I want to make it clear here that there are no plans, and never have been plans, to change the fact that the NHS is free at the point of use. The pandemic reminded us all how vital our health and care system is, and any proposed reforms will aim to continue to improve the quality of these services and patient outcomes and not change the concept of the NHS.
The pandemic underlined not only the dedication and skill of those working in this sector, but also the need of a broader, more integrated health and care system to ensure it functions better for the workforce, and better for the users and patients.
 I welcome the intention to develop more integrated care between the NHS, Local Government and other partners including the voluntary and community sector, which will be vital in tackling the factors that affect the long-term sustainability of patient services. Service provision by the independent and voluntary sectors has been, and continues to be, an important and valuable feature of our healthcare system, which I fully support. That said, I do appreciate that there are concerns about private sector involvement in Integrated Care Boards (ICB). It is important that people are assured that the work of ICBs will be driven by health outcomes, not by profits.
I welcome therefore that the Government has amended the Health and Care Bill, putting beyond doubt that Integrated Care Boards will not be controlled in any way by the private sector. No one that could potentially undermine the NHS due to their involvement in the private healthcare sector should sit on an ICB. The Government’s amendment makes clear that no one may be appointed to an ICB who would undermine the independence of the NHS, either as a result of their interests in the private healthcare sector, or otherwise.
On procurement, the Bill proposes the repeal of a number of clauses in the Health and Social Care Act 2012, including Section 75 which placed requirements on local health bodies to competitively tender for some health care services “where it adds no or limited value”.
The Kings Fund, an independent charity, has said about the reforms: “This Bill will remove cumbersome competition rules and make it simpler for health and care organisations to work together to deliver more joined-up care to the increasing numbers of people who rely on multiple different services.”
In terms of workforce, clause 34 of the Health and Care Bill would require the production of a workforce accountability report at least every five years. This report will increase transparency and accountability in the workforce planning process, putting in place the proper structures.
Additionally, the Department for Health and Social Care has already commissioned Health Education England to work with partners to develop a long-term 15-year strategic framework for the health and social care workforce. This will look at the key drivers of workforce demand and supply over the longer term and will set out how they impact on the future workforce. This is a welcome piece of work and I look forward to its publication, which I am told is expected in the spring.
It is vital that workforce planning is closely integrated to the wider planning across health and social care. Health Education England will be merged with NHS England, putting long-term planning and strategy for healthcare staff recruitment and retention at the forefront of the national NHS agenda.
The Government recognises there is still more to do in the case of the workforce and I welcome their ongoing work and commitment to looking at measures needed to address challenges. As such I did not vote in favour of the amendment, but I have noted the points raised and will ensure ministers are aware of them as the bill continues its parliamentary progress.
Furthermore, clause 127 of the Health and Care Bill is designed to provide more flexibility to the regulation of healthcare professionals so that it can change to better support patients, support our health and care services and help the workforce meet future challenges. Health and care professionals are regulated on a UK-wide basis and it is important that there are consistent standards to allow the flexibility for healthcare professionals to be able to work across the UK. The case for reforming professional regulation has long been acknowledged by bodies representing healthcare professionals. The existence of nine separate professional regulatory bodies is inefficient and confusing to patients. A review of the regulation of healthcare professionals has been commissioned and is due to report by the end of this year.
The Bill will make permanent some of the innovations brought about by the pandemic. I understand that these proposed reforms will also include proper accountability mechanisms and give patients and the public the confidence that they are receiving the best care from their healthcare system. 
The measures set out in the Health and Care Bill deliver on the NHS’s own proposals for reform in its Long Term Plan. I believe these proposals have been developed in consultation with key stakeholders in this sector, and I am encouraged by the preliminary positive feedback received. In particular, the comments from the former Chief Executive of NHS England, who said that this Bill “will support our health and care services to be more integrated and innovative so the NHS can thrive in the decades to come”, are reassuring.
I hope the information above goes some way to clarifying my position on the proposed amendments to this Bill, and the Government’s dedication to protecting and improving our fantastic health service.
Thank you again to those who have raised this issue with me.

See Also

My work and positions on Health & Social Care

The pandemic underlined not only the dedication and skill of those working in the health and social care sector, but also the need of a broader, more integrated health and care system to ensure it functions better for the workforce, and better for the users and patients.