All 14 Lord Stevens of Birmingham contributions to the Health and Care Act 2022

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Tue 7th Dec 2021
Health and Care Bill
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2nd reading & 2nd reading & 2nd reading
Tue 11th Jan 2022
Health and Care Bill
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Committee stage & Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage & Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1
Thu 13th Jan 2022
Health and Care Bill
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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Thu 20th Jan 2022
Mon 24th Jan 2022
Health and Care Bill
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Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1
Wed 26th Jan 2022
Health and Care Bill
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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Wed 26th Jan 2022
Health and Care Bill
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Lords Hansard - Part 3 & Committee stage: Part 3
Fri 4th Feb 2022
Wed 9th Feb 2022
Health and Care Bill
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Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1
Tue 1st Mar 2022
Health and Care Bill
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Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Report stage: Part 1
Thu 3rd Mar 2022
Health and Care Bill
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Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Report stage: Part 1
Thu 3rd Mar 2022
Health and Care Bill
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Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Report stage: Part 2
Wed 16th Mar 2022
Health and Care Bill
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Lords Hansard _ Part 1 & Report stage: _ Part 1
Tue 5th Apr 2022
Health and Care Bill
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Consideration of Commons amendments & Consideration of Commons amendments

Health and Care Bill

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Excerpts
Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB) (Maiden Speech)
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My Lords, I thank noble Lords for the warm and generous welcome. I joined the NHS on its 40th anniversary, in 1988; it is therefore a huge privilege to participate in this important debate more than three decades later.

I know that time is tight so I will cut to the chase and make three brief points. First, the Bill does indeed go with the grain of what patients can see is needed and what people across the NHS have been trying to bring about for some time now. It is not a cure-all—no Act of Parliament ever could be—but it removes legal, bureaucratic barriers to more joined-up care. The fact is that, as we dig our way out of the consequences of the worst pandemic in a century, as your Lordships have just heard in Oral Questions, GPs, hospitals and community services will need to work together in radical and new ways. This Bill will facilitate that. It is also the case that, in an era when, despite fantastic advances in medicine and science, we are seeing growing inequalities and a far higher proportion of patients with long-term conditions, just about every health system in the industrialised world is trying to move towards more integrated and preventive care.

In that respect, I should perhaps depart slightly from the noble Baroness’s comments on fluoridation, if I am permitted to do so in a maiden speech. I welcome this move towards dental decay prevention. I should declare an interest on the part of my teeth, in that I happen to have had the good fortune to have been born in Birmingham just a few years after that great city introduced fluoridation. If the whole country now follows its lead, we have the potential to halve the dental decay of children in the poorest communities.

To get back to the point, my second observation is that a number of the concerns raised about the Bill are perhaps a little wide of the mark. It is hard to sustain the argument—it has not been made this afternoon, at least so far—that the Bill in some way advances the privatisation of the National Health Service when in fact it scraps the EU compulsory competitive tendering regime imposed on it. However, there is a case for the Government to consider potentially strengthening some of the safeguards in Clause 70, which would ensure that, where contracts are being let for the private sector, that is done in an open, transparent and fair way.

The Bill does not fragment the NHS. It brings together local funding for GP services, hospitals and community services. It removes the role of the Competition and Markets Authority, enabling hospitals to work together, as the pandemic has shown to be so necessary. It brings together the triple-headed Cerberus of Monitor, the Trust Development Authority and the Commissioning Board to create a unified and accountable NHS England.

The Bill puts on a statutory, transparent and accountable basis the informal local partnerships that have arisen between the NHS and local councils out of necessity. It rightly allows them local flexibility because, in a country as large and diverse as ours, one size does not fit all. To suggest that the mere existence of these local bodies somehow constitutes the fragmentation or destruction of a National Health Service makes sense only if you think that every decision in the NHS can be taken nationally. That has never been the case and would never work. As one commentator on the NHS said, in the event of a nuclear war, only two things will survive: cockroaches and the regional tier of the National Health Service.

My third and final point is that, notwithstanding its many merits, just like the NHS, the Bill is not yet perfect. There is an opportunity to strengthen the provisions in respect of social care and mental health. As a number of noble Lords have set out, just about everybody can agree that, in principle, the major challenge facing health and social care is the strength and resilience of the workforce. It is therefore ironic that, for many years now, we have been promised a detailed, funded and properly thought-through workforce plan for education and training, stretching out over five, 10 or 15 years, yet, on each occasion when that detailed plan is about to be produced, it is muzzled. Jeremy Hunt’s Commons amendment sought to remove the muzzle; I hope that your Lordships will consider something similar in this House.

Finally, in respect of the Secretary of State’s powers, care is needed to ensure that this does not end up inadvertently centralising a number of decisions on service configurations that are best made locally. I remember, early on in my NHS career, attending a public meeting at which the proposed closure of a small maternity unit in town was being discussed. It was a very well-attended public meeting; large numbers of people showed up. The director of public health tried to set out the case that there just were not enough births in this midwife-led unit. A voice came from the back of the hall: “How many do we need, then?” There was a bit of head-scratching and a puzzled look, then he spluttered an answer. The voice at the back of the hall came back: “In that case, give us 18 months”. I can tell your Lordships that, in 18 months, that town did produce the requisite number of babies and the maternity unit is still open. That is not a decision that should have been taken in Whitehall. Yet, lurking near the back of the Bill, in Schedule 6 on page 197, are provisions that essentially do that. Nye Bevan may have said that he would like the sound of the dropped bedpan to reverberate around Whitehall, but not even he suggested that each hospital should write to him personally for permission to move the cupboard in which the bedpans are stored.

To conclude, despite all I have just said, there is considerable merit in the Bill. I believe that it is pragmatic, modest and evolutionary. It builds on many of the changes that people across the health service have looked to put in place over the past decade. Nye Bevan, the patron saint of the NHS, said that

“legislation in this country … starts off by voluntary effort … by empirical experiment … by improvisation. It then establishes itself by merit, and ultimately at some stage or other the State steps in and makes what was started by voluntary action … a universal service.”

That is the legislative task before us.

Health and Care Bill

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Excerpts
Committee stage & Lords Hansard - Part 1
Tuesday 11th January 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Health and Care Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-II Second marshalled list for Committee - (11 Jan 2022)
Moved by
5: Clause 3, page 2, line 8, at end insert—
“(ba) in subsection (2) insert— “(c) whether for the period covered by the mandate NHS England must ensure that revenue expenditure on mental health services increases as a proportion of total NHS revenue expenditure.””Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to be explicit and transparent about whether NHS England is required to ensure funding for mental health services grows as a share of total NHS revenue expenditure during the period covered by its mandate from the Government.
Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
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My Lords, these amendments all relate to mental health, and I should perhaps start by following in the wake of my former colleague, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, and declaring my former interest as an NHS chief executive.

I doubt whether anyone here needs persuading of the importance of mental health. Over the past decade, there has been a sea change in public awareness and attitudes and, at the same time, the NHS has begun to expand services to make good historic deficits, but it is not mission accomplished—far from it. The mission has just got a lot tougher. The pandemic has exacerbated and intensified mental health needs not just in this country but across the industrialised world. To take just one data point, we have seen a 69% increase in the number of young people being referred to specialist children and adolescent mental health services, including for eating disorders. At a time when, entirely appropriately, the focus is on cutting waits for surgical operations, we must make sure that mental health continues to get the focus, priority and constancy of commitment that it requires.

The purpose of this group of amendments is to ensure that that occurs. Having moved Amendment 5, I shall speak to related Amendments 12 and 136 in my name and those of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hollins, Lady Merron and Lady Tyler.

In a nutshell, our Amendment 5 would ensure that Government mandates to NHS England always contain explicit and transparent marching orders on mental health funding. I think it was a fellow called James Frick who said:

“Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I'll tell you what they are.”


That is why, in England, each year since 2015, mental health investment has been required to grow as a share of the NHS funding pie, and I am pleased to tell your Lordships that it has done so. The Minister should not take this amendment as a criticism; it is an encouragement to stay the course of putting our money where our mouth is, towards parity of esteem—or, if he prefers, levelling up between physical and mental health.

Of course, the mathematically minded among your Lordships might argue that if the share of NHS spending going on mental health keeps increasing, eventually we will have overshot what is needed. My response is twofold. First, in the real world, we are many years away from that happy state of affairs, and, in any event, the amendment does not require Governments to increase the relative share of resourcing for mental health; it simply requires them to be intentional and public about their mental health funding choices. It does not tie Ministers’ hands; it just requires them to reveal their hand. It means that the Government have to be clear about their asks of the NHS, and Amendments 12 and 136 mean that the NHS in turn has to be transparent in reporting on its delivery of them.

That is why these amendments command strong support outside this House from leading mental health charities, patients’ groups, and professions. Taken together, in practice the amendments represent spine stiffeners for the Government and accountability boosters for the NHS. I beg to move.

Lord Howarth of Newport Portrait Lord Howarth of Newport (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I welcome the amendments in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins. The emphasis on prevention in her Amendment 13 is particularly important.

I will make two points. There is abundant evidence that the engagement of the creative imagination can benefit mental health through improving well-being, confidence and self-esteem. The Creative Health report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing discusses, for example, the work of Artlift, a charity founded by a GP, Dr Simon Opher, which delivers arts on prescription in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. One participant said:

“I had split up from my partner, found myself without anywhere to live and couldn’t see my children. I couldn’t work as I wasn’t physically able to do the job and wasn’t in a position mentally or financially to start a building business again after going bankrupt. Since going to Artlift I have had several exhibitions of my work around Gloucester. I find that painting in the style that I do, in a very expressionistic way, seems to help me emotionally. I no longer take any medication and, although I am not without problems, I find that as long as I can paint I can cope. It doesn’t mean that depression has gone but I no longer have to keep going back to my GP for more anti-depressants, I just lock myself away and paint until I feel slightly better. I now mentor some people who have been through Artlift themselves and they come and use my studio a couple of times a week to get together, paint, draw and chat and I can see the benefit to them”.


The World Health Organization scoping review of 2019 synthesises evidence of the efficacy of the arts in preventing stress and anxiety and building self-esteem and self-confidence. A report to DCMS in April 2020 entitled Evidence Summary for Policy: The Role of Arts in Improving Health & Wellbeing, by Dr Daisy Fancourt of UCL et al, draws attention to

“a large literature of RCTs”—

randomised controlled trials—

“on the treatment or management of mental illness through arts involvement”.

Creatively Minded, a Baring Foundation report of 2020, maps 170 examples of organisations running arts and mental health projects in the UK.

--- Later in debate ---
Having said all that, I have heard the passion and strength of feeling from noble Lords across the House. I want to reassure all noble Lords that I will continue to reflect carefully on the specific points raised in the amendments and in the debate today. I would be happy to meet noble Lords to discuss their ideas and proposals further. I hope that we can find some agreement. I thank your Lordships for the thoughtful debate on this important subject. I hope I have reassured noble Lords that this Government are committed to delivering parity of esteem between physical and mental health. In our conversations between this stage and Report, I hope that we can seek to reduce that gap in understanding. For these reasons, I ask noble Lords to consider withdrawing or not pressing their amendments.
Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
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I thank the Minister for that careful response. Across the Committee, we have all obviously heard the breadth and depth of concern for the issues surfaced through these amendments. It is obviously for other noble Lords to infer this for themselves, but my sense is that these were not simply explanatory or probing amendments but, significantly, amendments with a view towards testing the view of the House on whether we can change the wording in the Bill itself. That is obviously not a matter for tonight, but I anticipate that we will return to some of these issues, perhaps on Report. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 5.

Amendment 5 withdrawn.

Health and Care Bill

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Excerpts
I look forward to the comments of my noble friend Lord Stevens of Birmingham on his Amendments 201 and 210, dealing with procurement and payment issues, to which I have added my name and which I support. Obviously, I look forward to contributions from the Committee and a response from the Minister, which I very much hope will be positive. I beg to move.
Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
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My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and support all the amendments in this group in her name. I speak particularly to Amendments 201 and 210 which, as she said, refer specifically to using the purchasing power of the NHS to drive this agenda. Given how brilliantly she has set out the case, I shall be extremely concise.

There are two evidence-based reasons why these amendments are important. The first, as the noble Baroness said, is because the health consequences of the environmental crisis are increasingly clear. The Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences laid all of those out. Whether on heat-related deaths, the disruption to care through climate emergencies, the increased risk of vector-borne infectious diseases, or the fact that up to a third of preventable asthma cases may be linked to the consequences of air pollution, the health case for action is clear. The second evidence-based reason, again as we have just heard, is that unfortunately healthcare itself is not blameless. It is part of the problem as well as part of a solution. By one estimate, if all the health systems in the world were their own country, they would be the fifth-largest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet. Therefore, the NHS must get its act together, given that it contributes 4% to 5% of our country’s emissions.

Those are the two evidence-based reasons. The NHS has stepped up in the way that the noble Baroness has set out. An expert panel led by the brilliant Dr Nick Watts made it the first health service in the world to charter a practical blueprint to net zero, but to do that, we must recognise that only about 28% of the carbon footprint of the NHS arises directly from care being provided. Another 10 percentage points are associated with travel on the part of patients, staff and visitors, but 62% of the carbon footprint arises from the supply chain—the medicines, the devices, the anaesthetic gases, the asthma inhalers, that the NHS uses, which it procures from 80,000-plus suppliers.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Prior of Brampton, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Young of Old Scone and Lady Hayman, for their support of my Amendments 201 and 210. Their purpose is simply to harness the £150 billion of purchasing power that will flow through either the new NHS payment system or the procurement rules to achieve the two evidence-based rationales that we have been discussing.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD)
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My Lords, this is my first foray into this Bill. I have a sense of déjà vu, having deputised for the noble Earl, Lord Howe, on the 2012 Bill. Despite our absolute confidence at the time, it seems that some things need to be tweaked and rectified, though I now find myself on this side and the noble Earl on the other.

From these Benches, I support these amendments. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, put it very effectively. Climate change needs to run through to the very foundations of the Bill, as does addressing the health inequalities which were the subject of the previous debate. We have had such a long-standing debate about them over the years.

As the noble Baroness has said, at the moment, the UK is taking the lead internationally on combatting climate change through COP 26 and in the year after. We have been urging the world to take urgent, deep-rooted action if the enormously damaging effects of climate change are to be tackled and reversed. We know that the poorest will be hardest hit and can already see that effect, but no part of the globe will be spared. We can already see this as well.

As the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, said, we also know the effects on human health worldwide. We can see them already in developed countries: we saw the effect of that heat dome in Canada and the deaths that resulted from it. We know that climate change might have played a part in seeding the pandemic from which we have suffered during the last two years. We know all that. We also know that we cannot lead internationally without addressing climate change nationally. I pay tribute to the staff supporting Peers for the Planet, a group of which I am a member, for making sure that we address climate change at every stage, in every Bill.

We are rightly proud of the NHS. It is the major employer in the United Kingdom. The health and social care of our ageing population will play an ever more important role in our lives. It is therefore right that, in the Bill, as in every other area of life, tackling climate change must run as a thread through all we do. The Climate Change Committee makes this clear. It is not something for only Defra or the COP team. It requires fundamental change in everything we do and the scrutiny of every area of life.

The NHS has already made strides forward. Here, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, in making sure that that was the case. At COP 26, the NHS made a commitment to net zero. As we have heard, 14 other countries followed the NHS’s lead. More than 50 countries, representing more than a third of global healthcare emissions, have committed to developing sustainable, low-carbon health systems. This is incredibly encouraging. It is also encouraging that, at COP 26, a new international platform was set up—to be hosted in partnership with NHS England and the WHO—to bring together those in the healthcare systems, so that people can learn from each other.

Why does this matter? As the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, has said, the healthcare sector is responsible for almost 5% of global emissions. Of course, public health is assisted by tackling climate change. Although we pay tribute to what the NHS has managed to do so far—and it is ahead of its requirements under the Climate Change Act—we need to make sure that this is built in and sustained for the future. This is what these amendments are about. Progress is being made, but we need to ensure that it is locked in and does not necessarily depend simply on who is leading these organisations at any particular time.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, has explained how her first amendment affects the overarching structure within NHS England. The other amendments put in place the necessary pragmatic steps to make sure that this is addressed. Thus, we have identified individuals for these particular responsibilities. This is obviously of key importance.

It is fundamental that, in addressing climate change, we do not just see this as hosting a major meeting or siloed in one department—whether Defra or BEIS. I am a member of the Select Committee on the Environment and Climate Change. When our committee asked the different departments to report on what they were doing in advance of COP what came back to us, in many regards, was a kind of surprise that they were relevant to it. They felt that it was something for Defra, for BEIS in particular, or for the COP unit. They did not see it as their responsibility. Some of the responses were superficial in the extreme. That is why it is important to make sure that we mainstream this issue, and this is another opportunity to do so. I strongly support the amendments that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and others have tabled.

Health and Care Bill

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Excerpts
Committee stage
Thursday 20th January 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Health and Care Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-V Fifth marshalled list for Committee - (20 Jan 2022)
Lord Warner Portrait Lord Warner (CB)
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My Lords, I support all the amendments in this group, particularly Amendment 74, to which I have added my name. I was one of the successors to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, as a Health Minister responsible for NICE. I pay tribute to his sterling work in establishing it. However, I encountered the same difficulties as he encountered with the NHS speedily taking up NICE recommendations and had to wrestle with this same problem.

I had a long and slightly exhausting chat with the chief executive and the chairman of NICE about what they could do to help the NHS implement their recommendations. We arrived at a concordat, and the NICE people went away and developed a rather helpful system for enabling the NHS to prepare for a NICE recommendation and to implement it. As far as I am aware, looking at the NICE website, it still has that system in place, so it is not as though NICE is simply putting its recommendations in the public arena and leaving the NHS to get on with it; it has done its level best to produce a way of helping the NHS to prepare to implement those recommendations.

What I do not understand is why we have not moved faster over time to recognise that more action needs to be taken with the laggards within the NHS to make this happen. I think that one method is captured in the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay.

If NICE is so important and it is so important that the NHS implements its recommendations, that ought to figure in the regulator’s assessment of the performance of those NHS bodies. I can see no reason it should not, and I wonder whether the Minister could tell us a little more than I know—and more, I suspect, than the Committee knows—about the current position on the failures of NHS bodies to pursue NICE recommendations. Do the Government accept that the regulator of these bodies should take account of their ability and willingness to implement NICE recommendations? Perhaps the Minister could clarify some of those issues. If he cannot clarify them today, perhaps he could write to us.

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
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My Lords, I had not intended to speak but, animated by the contributions of colleagues who, like me, were there at the conception of NICE, I thought I would offer a couple of contextual remarks to this group of amendments, supporting their underlying motivation, which is to ensure the spread of best practice as fast as possible across the National Health Service.

I was also motivated by the noble Baroness, Lady Watkins, who spoke earlier about the Crimean War, to recall that this is not a new problem. The world’s first controlled clinical trial took place in 1754 on board HMS “Salisbury”, when the Royal Navy was trying out the use of citric fruit—in lemons and limes—to combat scurvy. That experiment showed that scurvy could be tackled with lime juice, and it took the Navy 41 years to mandate its introduction more widely—fortunately, just in time for the Napoleonic Wars, which is why some argue that, contrary to Winston Churchill’s dictum that it was “rum, sodomy and the lash” that contributed to the Navy’s success, it was in fact lemon and lime juice.

The point is that this is not a new problem. We have been grappling with this but, despite that, we have seen the remarkably quick adoption of new clinical practices over the last two years during Covid, as new randomised control trials, following in the wake of the 1754 example, have shown the benefits of treatments such as dexamethasone. My point of context is that we need to be clear, if this group of amendments is to advance, about the terminology incorporated in the amendments. These will inevitably be, if they find their way into the Act, litigated against in the High Court and Court of Appeal.

In the drafting, there is reference to the marketing authorisations given by NICE, although I think it is the MHRA that provides marketing authorisations. There is a clear distinction to be made between the technology appraisals NICE undertakes and the development of guidelines. Although a number of noble Lords have referenced the importance of the guidelines, it is worth saying that a quick look at the NICE website reveals there are 1,591 guidelines, pieces of advice, quality standards and all the rest of it—most of which have not been subject to the full cost-effectiveness and affordability assessments that the gold standard technology appraisal performs. Before there could be a legal mandate for those guidelines, there would be some very significant methodological considerations for NICE. Without those, the risk is that mandating those guidelines would take resources away from other parts of needed care, such as mental health and community nursing—Cinderella services that have not been subject to those same processes.

We should also recognise that, vital though NICE is, the bigger contribution to the diffusion of best practice will probably be made in other ways. Certainly, reporting could help. Although one amendment makes the perfectly reasonable proposition of an annual report from integrated care boards on their adoption and uptake, that still feels a slightly 20th-century solution. If you go to Oxford University’s superb www.openprescribing.net, you can see your own GP practice and your own CCG’s prescribing patterns against the national norm, including, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, said, for the DOACs, the anticoagulating medicines. Those technologies are already available, and the role that clinical pharmacists are now playing, including the thousands of new clinical pharmacists hired to work alongside GPs to improve their prescribing habits, is also likely to have an important influence.

Finally, there is this question of whether, just occasionally, conflicts of interest might arise on the part of prescribers or clinicians over the medicines or devices being used. The noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, has drawn attention to this in her important work, and that is perhaps something the House might return to at a later date.

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
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My Lords, I want to intervene at not too much length. I welcome these amendments and am grateful to my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering for bringing hers forward. It enables us to touch on a subject which those of us involved in the Medicines and Medical Devices Act will recognise. This is a short version of the debates we had then, but it gives us an opportunity to update a little on those and me an opportunity to ask my noble friend on the Front Bench a few questions arising from that. We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Birmingham, who clarified some of the terminology, which saves us going wrong. But I want to do a bit of clarification about some of the amendments as well.

The timing of this is terrific. We are discussing this today and NICE published the outcome of its methods review yesterday, so we can respond immediately. My starting point is to applaud NICE for having taken up and accepted the proposition that there should be a modifier in relation to its appraisals and assessments on severe diseases. We can argue about the precise detail, but it has taken that up.

Secondly, randomised control trials are terribly important but they are not the whole story. NICE has rightly accepted it should look at more real-world evidence and that, too, we can welcome, but it leads me directly to a question. Part of that real-world evidence, and one of the reasons it is not going directly to NICE, though NICE can use it, is the innovative medicines fund. NHS England published its proposal for the innovative medicines fund in July and said that it would consult on it, but it has not done so yet. My first question to my noble friend is therefore: when will NICE and NHS England consult on the innovative medicines fund?

The third point on NICE’s methods review is that it will take account of the wider impacts of the treatments it appraises. That is terribly important, especially given the present opportunities for personalised medicines and gene-based treatments, when one looks at how these can impact substantially on people’s lives from a relatively early stage and the contributions they can make to society and the economy. That is all good news.

The press release from NICE, however, did not draw specific attention to where it had proceeded in a way that its stakeholders did not support. It has maintained a reference-case discount rate of 3.5%, although NICE itself admitted that there was evidence that a lower discount rate would give significant benefits. It said that there would be wider implications for policy and fiscal complexities and interdependencies if it were to do this, which I think means “The Treasury said no”. We need to think very hard about whether a discount rate as high as 3.5% is appropriate for NICE’s application of its appraisals. I ask my noble friend, though he will not be able to give me the answer to this: who is telling NICE that it cannot adopt what it regards as the evidence-based discount rate for the appraisals it undertakes?

Health and Care Bill

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Excerpts
Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage
Monday 24th January 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Health and Care Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-VI Sixth marshalled list for Committee - (24 Jan 2022)
Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
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My Lords, in theory these amendments should not be needed, but in practice they clearly are, as the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, has just so forensically set out. It is a statement of the blindingly obvious, particularly coming out of the pandemic, to say that we need better workforce planning at a time when staff are exhausted from having dealt with Covid for several years and the NHS is confronting the need to deal with the backlog of care.

But, frankly, it would be a statement of the blindingly obvious at any time, because the lead times for decisions on training for health professionals are such that they go beyond any individual term of Parliament or government manifesto. Universities need a strong signal as to what future demand will look like. The interconnectedness between health and social care means that we are actually thinking about a workforce of 3 million plus, and the materiality of getting it wrong over a five or 10-year period is bigger in this sector of the workforce than any other part of the economy. As we heard earlier—I think from the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley—estimates from the Health Foundation, for example, suggest that on the current trajectory the gap could be more than a third of a million staff in the health service by 2030-31; and in respect of the social care workforce, Skills for Care talks about perhaps 490,000 additional posts being required over the period to 2035. Those figures may be right or they may be wrong, but there is not a forensic forum in which those debates are scrutinised and choices made. This is not just about more; this is about different.

It is not all doom and gloom. Over the last two years, during the most intense challenge the health service has faced since its creation, nearly 160,000 people have signed up to join the health and care staff and professions. We have seen applications for undergraduate nursing up by more than a quarter and a huge increase in applications for and interest in studying medicine, yet we have an acceptance rate of only about 52% for undergraduate nursing, according to figures from UCAS, and we are turning away bright and brilliant young people with fantastic A-level grades who would like to study medicine. That is a paradox which stems from the fact that, unlike the day-to-day running costs of the health service, those items which have the longest planning horizon—workforce and capital investment—are the areas with the shortest financial horizon.

Of course, it may well be argued by the Government that we are about to turn a corner and that although there has been a degree of short-termism hitherto, things are about to improve. But I am afraid that I think we are entitled to treat that proposition with a degree of scepticism, because although what has been said up until now may be blindingly obvious, in fact what we have been confronted with is wilful blindness. Health Education England, which should be looking at 10 years, does not yet have its running budget for 10 weeks’ time. If we look back over the history of recent years, we can see a series of missed opportunities. The Minister may assure us that we will be presented with this 15-year further vision from Health Education England this coming summer, which will, of course, be welcome. But if we remind ourselves of the history since 2014 or 2015, as I say, we can perhaps be a tad sceptical. Obviously, I draw attention to my prior NHS interest, and everything I am about to say only draws on the public record, just to clarify that point.

It was back in 2014 that the NHS Five Year Forward View talked about the service changes that were required, but it was not permitted to talk about future capital investment, social care or workforce training, since they were being kept separate. So, in summer 2016, the Department of Health and Social Care was going to produce this detailed quantified workforce plan instead. Twenty-sixteen came and went and instead, in December 2017—three years after the Five Year Forward View—Health Education England launched a consultation document which said: “Your responses will be used to inform the full strategy to be published in July 2018 to coincide with the NHS’s 70th birthday.”

Twenty-eighteen came and went, and answers saw we none. Then in June 2019, we got another, in this case interim people plan, with lots of excellent content but unfortunately no actual numbers and no new pound notes. Despite the fact that it promised:

“We will aim to publish a full, costed five-year Plan later this year”


quantifying

“the full range of additional staff needed”.

But again, “later this year” came and went, and no such documents saw the light of day, until in July 2020 we had a one-year people plan which, at that point, was covering just the next eight months. Fear not, though, because it said:

“Further action for 2021/22 and beyond is expected to be set out later in the year”—


in 2020—

“once funding arrangements have been confirmed by the Government.”

That did not happen.

Instead, in July 2021, last summer, the Department of Health and Social Care again commissioned Health Education England to start from scratch. Last November, HEE published a short PowerPoint—commissioned from a firm of accountants—with the discouraging disclaimer on the first page that:

“We do not warrant or represent that the report is appropriate for your purposes”


and “no warranty is made as to the accuracy of any data”. As it happens, that does not really matter because there were no real data in the document anyway, which came to startling conclusions such as “workforce demand will be affected by demography and disease”.

I think we are entitled to say that this litany tells us that what, to everybody else, is blindingly obvious has instead been confronted with wilful blindness. What explains this? Is it a lack of interest on the part of the committed people to getting this right? No, it is not—some excellent work has been done. Your Lordships may take a clue from a statement that Jeremy Hunt, the former Secretary of State and now Chair of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, made last Tuesday, when he said that “the Health and Social Care Committee has recommended on numerous occasions that we should have independently verified forecasts of the number of doctors, nurses and other staff that we should be training for the future. But that has been blocked consistently by the Treasury”.

Without in any way commenting on or editorialising that, the Minister may want to take the opportunity to confirm whether that is indeed the case. But just on the off chance that he does not refute the statement Jeremy Hunt has made, then that, I think, tells us that unfortunately, these amendments are necessary and will strengthen the hand of Health and Social Care Ministers in the future. I cannot help thinking that, in their heart of hearts, past Health Ministers know that they would have benefited enormously, were these amendments on the statute book. I am afraid that, if the Government choose not to support these amendments—as I hope will not be the case—that will be proof positive that they are very necessary. Therefore, I hope they will recognise that ignorance is not bliss and if we do find ourselves in that situation, this House will take the opportunity at Report to give the Commons another go.

Lord Patel Portrait Lord Patel (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, listening to my noble friend Lord Stevens of Birmingham, I am beginning to feel the pain of his frustration at being chief executive of the NHS and not being listened to in order to fix such an important issue as workforce planning. Also, there is a bit of déjà vu that he may remember, along with some of my colleagues who were took part in the Lords committee inquiry into the long-term sustainability of the NHS and adult social care.

Let me argue the same issues that he just presented. The report on the long-term sustainability of the NHS and adult social care, published in April 2017, looked at data on demographic and disease burden projections of the population over the next 15 to 20 years. It identified a lack of long-term workforce planning as a key threat to the long-term sustainability of the NHS. The Committee heard from the then Secretary of State, the right honourable Jeremy Hunt, who had this to say:

“workforce planning is an area where we have failed… Brexit will be a catalyst to get this right… That is an area where we need to be much more strategic”.

That was nearly five years ago and yet, there is no strategic healthcare workforce plan from the Department of Health and Social Care, as we just heard.

The solution is not going to come from an outside body, no matter how influential. It has to come from the centre, from the leadership of the NHS and social care, and not one in the isolation from the other. What we have heard from the centre and NHS organisations is many publications identifying the problem, but not the solution with a long-term plan. We are told that this may be coming in April 2022—or perhaps later.

On the other hand, there are several detailed authoritative documents on the NHS workforce from think tanks, NHS providers, the BMA, the nursing councils and many others, who have been grappling with this issue and trying to find a solution for a long time and advising the Government on how to do this. There is no lack of authoritative reports based on data related to long-term projections of population, its demography, health needs and the workforce needed to deliver them. For example, an extensive, well-researched report by Dr Latifa Patel, a respiratory paediatrician, and Dr Wrigley, a GP of medical staff in England, projected to 2045—based on population and disease data—the number of doctors needed in each speciality and possible models of plans to deliver on this by 2032. A document extending to 60 pages is not only highly informative and well-researched but identifies a way forward.

Since the Health and Social Care Act 2012, there has been inadequate workforce planning, fuelled by inadequate regional and national workforce data and a lack of accountability for it at government level. We are not training enough doctors, despite record numbers of people applying. The latest figures, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Birmingham, mentioned, show a 21% increase on previous years in applications to medical schools of highly talented young people. This means the NHS is ill-equipped to tackle the backlog of care, is not prepared for future public health crises and cannot meet patient needs, either now or in the future.

If we compare England with EU nations within the OECD, which have an average of 3.7 doctors per 1,000 people, the medical workforce in England is currently short of around 49,000 full-time equivalent doctors. Without significant intervention regarding the current rate of growth, the estimate is that the future medical workforce shortage will be between 26,889 and 83,779 full-time doctors by 2043. Such precise numbers show how well-researched this document is. Each full-time doctor in NHS England is doing an average of 1.3 full-time equivalent roles. I have three of them in the NHS and I can see what they do—although I tell them they are lazy compared to me.

Health and Care Bill Debate

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Department: Leader of the House

Health and Care Bill

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Excerpts
Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage
Wednesday 26th January 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Health and Care Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-VI(a) Amendments for Committee (Supplementary to the Sixth Marshalled List) - (26 Jan 2022)
Baroness Tyler of Enfield Portrait Baroness Tyler of Enfield (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 165 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. This is a small but important group of amendments.

I have added my name to the amendment because I am interested in what is happening to primary care and particularly the voice of GPs in the new arrangements. Frankly, we are not hearing much about them. As it stands, the legislation will place NHS trusts and foundation trusts in quite a privileged position in deciding how plans are made and resources allocated. I am not quite sure where the voice of GPs comes into the new arrangements. I understand that NHS England has commissioned a review of the role of primary care in the NHS structures, but my understanding is also that it will not report until after the Bill has been passed if we continue with the current timetable. Frankly, by then, it will be a bit late to make sure that we have got the arrangements absolutely right.

It is right that primary care commissioning is undertaken at a local level by people with relevant knowledge and skills, and with the necessary experience of what primary care needs to look like at locality level. That is why it is right that the new place-based partnerships are to be given that commissioning role. However, like the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, I think it is important that these primary care commissioning arrangements are established in statute, because it is only if that happens that Parliament will be clear about the accountability arrangements and the governance and leadership. It is also important that there is real transparency in the system. At the moment, it all feels a bit opaque. I hope that the Minister can give some assurances on this point.

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I just wanted to respond to the last set of very important questions that have arisen. It is fair to say that the Bill increases the accountability for commissioning primary care services locally, as compared with its predecessor, the 2012 Act. That is because one consequence of having GPs represented on the clinical commissioning groups was that clinical commissioning groups could not, therefore, be the commissioners of local primary care services, at least in statute. One had the paradox that the most local of all the services in the NHS was stripped out from the local commissioning bodies, the CCGs, and instead given nationally to NHS England, as a work-around to deal with the conflict of interest that GPs would otherwise have had in commissioning themselves on the CCGs.

In practice, the CCGs have been given the ability to influence those local commissioning arrangements but, to be clear, that is not the accountability mechanism set through the 2012 Act. What this Bill does is to improve the position, in that it is local integrated care boards that have that local commissioning responsibility for GP and other family health services, as compared with NHS England nationally.

Baroness Walmsley Portrait Baroness Walmsley (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we have been reminded many times during the debates in Committee of the aims of the Bill to improve the health and well-being of the population, to improve the quality of care and to use NHS resources sustainably through integration, co-operation and collaboration. Of course, the point at which these resources are used at the coalface, known as “place” in the Bill, is in these place-based organisations. To ensure integration at this level, we are told that the ICB must create an integrated care partnership, otherwise known as a place-based integrated care board, which probably has an acronym as well. There is, however, very little detail about those, despite their crucial importance, and these amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, are an attempt to put a bit of flesh on those bones.

I put my name to Amendment 166, but I could just as easily have put it to Amendment 165. Amendment 166 says that, within the place-based partnership, there should be mandated a provider network board with duties delegated to it by the ICB. It would be under parliamentary scrutiny and have an obligation to meet in public. These networks already exist and exert considerable influence, but it is essential that they operate in this new integrated care system under a regulated constitution, with obligations to consult and financial provisions. This amendment would ensure the transparency, for which the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, called, over how well integration is operating at this very important level so that there can be proper control and accountability and scrutiny as to where the money is being spent and whether it is achieving the duties placed on all these systems by the Bill.

Health and Care Bill

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Excerpts
Lords Hansard - Part 3 & Committee stage
Wednesday 26th January 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Health and Care Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-VI(a) Amendments for Committee (Supplementary to the Sixth Marshalled List) - (26 Jan 2022)
The constitutional character of this legislation is part of a larger story of Executive aggrandisement by a Government who, armed with a large majority in the elected Chamber, have scant respect for other sources of authority or for the conventions of parliamentary government. That the Government’s majority in the House of Commons is decreasingly biddable does not make its Executive arrogance any less objectionable. Clause 40, like Clauses 39 and 64, should not stand part of the Bill.
Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
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My Lords, it is a privilege to speak to this group of amendments. I recognise that a public service as important as the National Health Service has to be democratically accountable to the Secretary of State and Parliament. I also recognise that the broad provisions of the Bill have wide support outside this House from organisations ranging from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges to the representative organisations spoken of today, the Patients Association, and many others which, at the inception of these proposals, came forward to advocate for them.

However, unfortunately, when we turn our attention to Clause 40 and Schedule 6 there is no such support for the measures therein. These provisions manage, perhaps uniquely, to combine being unnecessary, undesirable and unworkable—a legislative trifecta that has little to commend it.

The measures are unnecessary for the reasons set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege. There is already a well-established mechanism for local consultation, under which democratic local authorities can, if concern arises, bat a proposal up to the Secretary of State for a national decision with the advice of an independent expert panel. There is also established public law in this area, which can be tested through judicial review. Just about nobody, nationally, or locally, thinks that the proposals in this part of the Bill are needed. They are, in effect, a solution in search of a problem.

As well as unnecessary, these proposals are undesirable. They would confuse and obscure accountability for the quality and safety of patient care. The Court of Appeal held in Nettleship v South Tyneside and Sunderland CCGs in 2020 that there is no duty to include in a public consultation options which local commissioners deem to be unviable, unrealistic or unsustainable. Yet Schedule 6 would allow the Secretary of State to impose service changes that local clinicians, local patient groups and, indeed, local authorities deem unsafe or unviable. This clearly cuts across the statutory responsibilities of local boards for the safety and quality of care.

Where the Secretary of State has imposed such a service change on the local NHS, is it the Secretary of State who will then be in receipt of Care Quality Commission findings and scrutiny? Is it the Secretary of the State who will be on the receiving end of medical negligence claims, or potentially criminal proceedings? This set of measures completely obscures the well-established accountability for the quality and safety of local care.

I believe that these measures are unnecessary and undesirable, but they are also unworkable. As worded, the definition of a reconfiguration is vague and overly broad. It could capture just about any change in service provision. On page 197, the Bill refers to changes that have

“an impact on … the manner in which a service is delivered to individuals.”

That could cover just about anything, and if hospitals are proposing such a change, they have a duty to notify the Secretary of State.

By contrast, the long-standing Local Authority (Public Health, Health and Wellbeing Boards and Health Scrutiny) Regulations 2013, with which your Lordships will be intimately familiar, set a higher hurdle, which is that the consultation requirement applies to

“a substantial development or variation”

in services. In its place, we would instead have, through the Bill, a set of processes that would lead to second-guessing, centralising and politicising, a furring-up of the NHS’s decision-making arteries, which, had these measures been in place during the pandemic, would have handicapped the response, at precisely the time when the NHS needs to be agile and adaptable, and will do nothing to advance the changes needed across front-line care delivery.

For all these reasons, I believe that if the Bill is passed in its current form, Clause 40 and Schedule 6 will become a running sore, not only for patients and local service but for Ministers. There are two possible ways forward. There is the proposal that Clause 40 do not stand part of the Bill, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, which would surgically excise the problem, or there is the group of amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, which would apply sutures, analgesics and disinfectant. Either approach could work, but one or the other is needed.

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I intervene briefly to say that I support the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Crisp. We are grateful to him for tabling them, and indeed for presenting them so very well.

I also rather enjoyed the opportunity from the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, to think back to 2011, as I think it was, when I went to visit Watford General—I probably announced a new hospital then, but I cannot quite remember. She said the local connections were all funded by the local authority, and I seem to remember paying for the roundabout outside Watford General Hospital, because it was so instrumental to the process of the redevelopment. Anyway, that is by the way.

What I am really looking for from my noble friend on the Front Bench is to understand the mischief to which the Government’s proposals in Clause 54 are the remedy. Certainly, when I was Secretary of State—which is a long way back; we were not in deficit but we did not have a lot of money—the issue every year with the capital expenditure of FTs was that they always told us that they were going to spend a lot and then did not spend anything like as much. To account for that in the public accounting system, we had to make some heroic assumptions about how much less they would spend than they said they were going to spend.

It may be that the department is saying that the way we get round all this is to set very tight limits in the first place—to say where we think they are going and what we think they can spend. This, frankly, is a recipe for disaster for many trusts, because the reason they underspend is that there are so many difficulties in planning and executing capital expenditure projects.

I am trying to find out the purpose behind the Government taking such strong powers in relation to capital expenditure. I rather hope that they might see merit in the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Crisp.

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
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My Lords, I will be brief. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, in fairness, there is logic to the broad direction being set out by the Government here. As the financial health of foundation trusts improves, their ability to seek self-generated capital investment will, in all likelihood, be much higher, looking over the next four or five years, than it has been during the more constrained financial circumstances of prior years. So it is not unreasonable to have a set of measures in the Bill that would enable Ministers to ensure that the NHS sticks with the capital expenditure, voted for by Parliament, for the NHS in any given year; nor is it unreasonable on the part of the Government to seek to ensure that there is a mechanism by which that capital can be allocated fairly across the country according to need, rather than purely according to an individual institution’s ability to finance it.

All that being said, rather than this being a fundamental matter of principle in the way that our last two discussions have been, these amendments have a lot to commend them. They are entirely pragmatic and put the right safeguards around what should be only an emergency power. As the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, laid out, that was the basis on which a consensus was achieved back in 2019. It provides good incentives at trust level for sound financial management and, frankly, it provides a bit of a pressure release or a safety valve against an overly artificially constrained capital settlement in certain years or parts of the country.

I very much hope that, in the constructive spirit with which I think these amendments are being advanced, this is something that the Government might consider favourably.

Baroness Neuberger Portrait Baroness Neuberger (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of University College London foundation trust. I want to echo everything that has been said. I do not really understand why what was a carefully negotiated agreement seems to have been reneged on. I think it would be great to have some kind of explanation from the Minister as to why that should be the case.

I rather agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, that some of those freedoms for foundation trusts are essential, and that fettering foundation trusts too much will not do much good. I really want to agree with everybody and not waste any more time, but please can we have an explanation?

--- Later in debate ---
Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
- Hansard - -

I shall briefly make two points. First, having looked at this quite carefully, it is good to see that there is nothing in the proposals for the payment scheme that would intrinsically give rise to the concerns just articulated. Secondly, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, there are very good answers that can be provided, even if not now, to the questions that he poses. One starting point would be to look at the judgment that the Court of Appeal handed down at the end of 2018, which essentially confirmed that what he said is correct. It is just about possible to torture the 2012 tariff system to make it fit for purpose, but an incredibly elaborate set of workarounds is required to do so, with an enormous amount of bureaucracy and that covers only about 60% of the fund flows in the National Health Service. Hence the desire for something more flexible, which this set of clauses enables the NHS to take forward.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is very gratifying that so many noble Lords have decided to come in to take part in a debate about NHS finances tonight; I am very grateful for that.

I shall speak briefly to Amendments 199, 200 and 202A in my name. Amendment 199 provides that the Secretary of State must set out rules for determining the price to be paid for NHS services. Amendment 200 ensures that the key policy documents covering NHS services are approved by the Secretary of State. Amendment 202A provides that the rules must be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

I am very pleased that the complexity of NHS funding was not mentioned in great detail tonight, but there has been speculation about how funding may work and how the various financial responsibilities in and across ICSs may develop. What we think we know is that complex funding approaches, such as payment by results, will become less important. In Clause 70 and the associated Schedule 10, however, the Bill is wonderfully uninformative. It just says, “Out with the old”—the national tariff—“and in with the new”, the NHS payment scheme. I am again with the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, in saying that these questions need to be answered, because they will affect the regulations, procurement rules and so on.

The payment scheme—actually, I am not going to talk about the history of the NHS payment scheme at this time of night, but, unless the Minister can justify it and answer the questions posed by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, this part of the Bill should be quietly dropped. We seem to have something that works, so why replace it with something that we do not know very much about?

Health and Care Bill Debate

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Department: Leader of the House

Health and Care Bill

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Excerpts
Committee stage
Friday 4th February 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Health and Care Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-VIII(a) Amendment for Committee - (3 Feb 2022)
Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will speak to Schedule 17 generally and in support of Amendment 244 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. In doing so, I declare my wife’s interest as a board director of Tesco and Diageo.

I will focus my comments on the amendments supported by my noble friends Lord Vaizey and Lord Moylan. In doing so, I seek to address all the amendments they have put forward, which seek to: extend the implementation period for the new restrictions; introduce brand advertising exemptions; and bring in effectiveness reviews and sunset clauses, and all the other clauses that seek to water down the really important measures in the Bill on junk food advertising. I recognise that the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, has already gone through some of these amendments in detail, so I do not want to go through that again. However, I am aware that my noble friend Lord Vaizey and other noble Lords have brushed off the Government’s obesity strategy as wrong-headed and doomed; indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, has shared his view that the measures in the Bill are disproportionate.

I want to reflect for a moment on what we are trying to do here. As a country, we have got into a situation where, by every measure, we are seriously overweight. The worst affected are our children. We have heard, both in this debate and many times in this Chamber, that two in five children are overweight. The worst-affected children are the poorest children, who are twice as likely to be overweight. In thinking about the environment our children are being brought up in—this question of environment is absolutely critical—what are our values as a nation if we knowingly create an environment that encourages children to develop addictions to foods that we know will hurt them, adversely affect their moods, hold back their learning, reduce their self-worth and damage their health for years to come?

Through the pandemic, we have seen that now is the time to lean into this ongoing national disaster. The measures in this Bill are necessary because they are an essential condition for an overall change in the direction of travel of childhood obesity prevalence. The challenge is going from an increase in the weight of our children of around 1% per year to a decrease of 4.2% per year. That is an astonishing mission and a massive challenge. No country has ever undertaken such a thing.

However, I am not convinced that we can just hope that our primary schools will do all the heavy lifting to achieve this. Somehow, as a country, we have to change the way in which we run our lives. This will require a change in the environment in which our children learn about, engage with and buy food—and that includes the media they consume. If we fail, for every year that this is not achieved, the rate of change needed in future years will grow, and thousands more children will be exposed to the physical and mental health impacts of obesity.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, talked eloquently about how, 20 years ago, the Hastings report had this research nailed. There is now a sense of urgency, which is why these measures are needed. It is why we cannot seek to extend the implementation periods for new restrictions; this will just drag them out indefinitely and undermine the seriousness of the programme. It is why we cannot give brand advertising an exemption that clearly leaves the door wide open for the same old advertising in different ways. It is why we should not commit to effectiveness reviews that will become a rear-guard action to unpick these regulations, nor commit to sunset clauses that will give industry false hope that somehow the Government will just give up on these measures or the problem will go away.

To reach the 2030 target, it is absolutely crucial that the Government continue with these plans to restrict junk food advertising on TV and—as the noble Viscount rightly said—online, and do not waste any more time. It is also crucial that we introduce fiscal measures to speed up reformulation at the same time, making healthy eating more accessible to everyone. It is absolutely clear from our data that any delay in action or the implementation of proposals to address childhood obesity will have a significant impact on the ability of the Government to achieve their ambition. More children will grow ill and live shorter lives.

I hear—loudly and clearly—the concerns of my noble friends Lord Vaizey and Lord Moylan, and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. I hear their concerns about the science, the research and the public health epidemiology that underpin these measures. I do not agree with their scepticism but I do hear their concerns, so let me pick off a couple of them.

My noble friend Lord Vaizey expressed scepticism about the effectiveness of these measures. He is right that these advertising restrictions will not work on their own. Obesity is a complex issue and no one single policy can solve it. However, small steps matter. It can take as little as 46 extra calories a day for children to gain excess weight, and seeing just one minute of HFSS adverts leads to children eating an extra 14 calories a day on average.

As I said earlier, this question of environment is absolutely critical. I accept that we need population-level structural policies to address the social and economic drivers of obesity, to then address the growing inequalities between the most and the least-deprived children. That is why the levelling-up White Paper earlier this week that tackles housing, education, deprivation and many other aspects of British life was critical to this debate and forms the context in which we should discuss these measures. It is also why my noble friend should not feel that the broadcast and food industries are in some way being uniquely scapegoated. This is a national programme that will touch on many lives.

My noble friends are right to express concerns about the fortune of the broadcast and internet industries, two jewels in Britain’s creative industries and employers that drive local economies. I want to reassure them. I once worked in the media industry and have not forgotten the intense competition for advertising and the existential battle with big tech, but my noble friend Lord Vaizey spoke as if many of these companies would find that all communication by these companies on all their products to all their target markets would somehow be terminated forthwith and that the British public service broadcast industry would be thrown into destitution. That is just not quite right. Cancer Research UK found that ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky One derive a small proportion—just 8% of their total ad revenue—from adverts for HFSS foods.

It is true that almost two-thirds of HFSS product adverts aired between 6 and 9 pm fall within the category that UKHSA has identified as the highest contributors of sugar calories in people’s diets, a fact that I found quite alarming, but under a 9 pm watershed broadcasters would have lost only 5% of their total advertising revenue if all HFSS adverts were removed completely, without anything in their place. Noble Lords should know that over three-quarters—79%—of potential revenue loss from removing HFSS adverts could be mitigated against by companies advertising their existing non-HFSS products instead of promoting their HFSS products. Healthy foods can still be advertising.

It is just not right to call these measures appalling and crude or ridiculous and blunt. To change the environment in which our children make decisions about food is critical for this national mission, and to contribute to a campaign to improve the health of children is a commendable aspiration for these government measures.

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, perhaps channelling the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, from this morning, I congratulate the Government on including in the Bill these measures to tackle childhood obesity. As we have heard, with one in four children not just overweight but clinically obese, we are storing up huge problems for the future because we know that what starts in childhood continues into adulthood. In that sense, diet is destiny. Unfortunately, obesity is the new smoking. We know that it is the cause of avoidable heart attacks, strokes, 13 different types of cancer, and respiratory disease, and causes a far higher risk of dying from Covid. Clearly action is needed, and the Bill makes a start.

If anything, these measures, which are certainly proportionate, may be overly targeted. Some of the criticisms levelled at the Bill should have given rise to amendments to extend its scope to deal with some of the loopholes or to level the playing field into other digital aspects that people are concerned about. That would have been a constructive response to legitimate concerns. Instead, I cannot help feeling that this morning we have heard from opponents who are simultaneously arguing that the measures in the Bill go too far and at the same time will not be effective enough, and to ensure that this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy they have included amendments which would essentially fillet the Bill of its active ingredients.

These are familiar tactics. This is the tactic of deny, dilute and delay. The first is denying, claiming to us as parents that ads and marketing make little meaningful difference to kids’ consumption; but on the other hand we have companies—presumably rational economic actors—spending maybe hundreds of millions of pounds every year on the basis that exactly the opposite is true. Like Schrödinger’s cat, which is simultaneously dead and alive, it seems that junk food advertising and marketing simultaneously does and does not work. What is at stake here is not quantum physics but the physical and mental health of millions of children.

Lord Vaizey of Didcot Portrait Lord Vaizey of Didcot (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Given the noble Lord’s extraordinary expertise, having worked all over the world, does he know any example of any country where a junk food advertising ban has had an impact on obesity? This is a genuine question.

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
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As the noble Lord will know, the genuine problem that we have in this country is that unfortunately we are a world leader in childhood obesity. It therefore falls to us to take world-leading action to respond to that.

Even classical economic liberals will accept that children are not sovereign consumers. The noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, in his earlier remarks, said that there was no evidence that advertising leads to increased consumption. My noble friend Lord Krebs has comprehensively rebutted that point but, to underline the matter, I say that studies of children’s ventromedial prefrontal cortices—the areas of their brains associated with reward valuation—suggest that watching food commercials systematically alters the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms of children’s food decisions. Even small but sustained reductions in at-risk children’s calorific content provide demonstrable physiological benefit.

By the way, this figure of 1.7 grams or 3 grams, as my noble friend Lord Krebs pointed out, is a mistaken application of epidemiological maths—that is, dividing the assumed totality of calorific reduction against the totality of children on an even basis, when in fact the children who will disproportionately benefit are those who are disproportionately exposed and disproportionately obese.

Systematic evidence reviews conclude that

“screen advertising for unhealthy food results in significant increases in dietary intake among children.”

Therefore, once we have had the denial, the second tactic is to dilute the regulatory effort—to insert loopholes, to neuter regulators, to drive a coach and horses through what is proposed. We have a number of amendments which seek to do that. They pretend, as the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, pointed out, that advertising to children of a smaller item is not in practice also advertising the identically packaged larger item. They exempt ads for certain bars which by themselves may contain half of a child’s maximum daily recommended sugar intake. They give a green light to brand advertising, even where children perceive the fast food or confectionary brand and its associated unhealthy products as essentially the same. Widespread evidence shows that current narrow restrictions on children’s exposure to harmful junk food ads are routinely breached, and frankly these amendments seek to repeat the trick.

Even more absurdly, Amendments 245A and 250ZA would restrict harmful advertising only on a Saturday and Sunday. The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, pointed out that those of us who are parents know that our kids are not exposed to screens only on a Saturday or Sunday; it turns out that Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are also days of pressure for those of us trying to be responsible parents. Or are we asked to believe that rising obesity in pre-school and school-age children does not happen on school days? If so, these amendments imply the discovery of a phenomenon unknown to medical science: weekend-only obesity.

Finally, when denial has been disproved and the dilution tactic has been debunked, the amendments try for delay—for more time to lobby for a weakening of the political will, to live to fight another day. “Lord make us pure, but not yet”; even St Augustine would blush at these amendments. Nor for that matter do government Amendments 249, 252 and 254 have anything to commend them. We have heard this morning a strange contradiction between the acknowledged urgency of the spiralling health crisis affecting our children versus the long and leisurely gap that some still want before further action is taken. These preventive measures were first announced by the Government in 2018. Three years is more than long enough to prepare and adapt. The Government’s goal is to halve childhood obesity by the end of the decade, but we are nowhere near being on track. We had better get on with it because, as the saying goes, children may be only a fifth of our population but they are 100% of our future. In the past, the blocking tactics of deny, dilute and delay have often succeeded—but today, perhaps not, because young people and parents want change, and because today, in this Bill, the Government are showing resolve; so too should we, my Lords.

Lord Black of Brentwood Portrait Lord Black of Brentwood (Con)
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 245, tabled by my noble friend Lord Vaizey, and to others in this group to which I have added my name. I declare my interests as a director of the Advertising Standards Board of Finance and deputy chairman of the Telegraph Media Group, and note my other interests in the register. I am also a vice-chairman of the ITV APPG.

This does not need repeating: I support the Government’s aim to tackle childhood obesity, but I am wholly opposed to their proposals to tackle it through an advertising ban. I believe that even now, at the 11th hour, they should think again, because it is disproportionate and based on scant and frankly implausible evidence. It will damage the creative economy, which is already under such stress, and it will have unintended consequences, like so much legislation that impacts on the media.

Also—and this is a very important point—it sets a hugely dangerous precedent for the Government to interfere with advertising freedoms, which are a fundamental aspect of freedom of expression. This is bad legislation.

As we have heard so often, the reduction in calories will be minimal, but this ban will take £200 million out of the media and creative industries when they can ill afford it and when they are in a life-and-death struggle with the all-powerful platforms. My noble friend Lord Bethell said that it would take out only 8% of revenues. When you are in day-to-day combat with the platforms for advertising revenue, 8% of revenues is a huge amount of money. More than 265 news media outlets have closed over the last 15 years, and many more will follow if the burden of regulation is increased, not cut in the way it should be.

This ban will not impact just broadcasters; it will disproportionately affect news publisher websites, too. This blunderbuss of a ban will reduce freedom of choice for advertisers and harm the ability of news media publishers to monetise content online, which is crucial for their long-term survival. At the same time, astonishingly, it will allow the tech platforms to continue to derive enormous amounts of revenue from HFSS advertising.

Here is the great irony: the platforms have a significant audience of children, because that is where children go to get their news, but they will not be impacted. News publisher websites have only a de minimis child audience but will suffer directly as a result of this policy—and they will do so at a time when the entire industry is under great stress, as countless reports, including the Government’s Cairncross and Furman reviews, the report from our own Communications and Digital Committee and a comprehensive report from the CMA, have demonstrated. In winding up, could my noble friend explain why news publishers are caught but the platforms are not? It is, as somebody famously said, “voodoo economics”.

Even at this late stage, I hope the Government will think again and drop these ill-thought-out restrictions. In case they do not—I am a practitioner of the art of realpolitik and I know this ban may end up going through—as we have heard from a number of noble Lords, we must at least make sure the policy is workable. That is the job of this House and this Committee because, at the moment, the measures are not fit for purpose.

As noble Lords know, during my career I have had one or two encounters with the issue of regulation, and I am clear that, for regulation to work properly, it must have a number of inherent qualities. First, you cannot rush regulation. Stakeholders from those affected need to have their input and they need time to adapt. That is what the amendments in this group, starting with Amendment 245, are all about. This is not just delay for delay’s sake; it is delay because that is what the real world demands. When this Bill becomes law, that is just a starting point. As my noble friend Lord Vaizey said, you have to designate a regulator, then the regulator has to implement it and there has to be public consultation on code changes. That long process could easily take the rest of the year and possibly longer.

Once that is all complete, in the real world, advertisers, agencies and media owners will need time to assess how the system is going to work in practice. This is a very complicated part of the creative economy, as the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, said. You cannot just flick a switch and expect everything to change at once. It will take at least a year for all those involved in the advertising supply chain to adapt, review processes, set new legal procedures in place and so on—leaving aside the impact on the creative aspects of their work. That is why I genuinely believe that this Bill must not come into force until one year after the final publication of the rules and guidance from the appointed regulator.

A judicious approach to implementing the rules is one characteristic of sensible regulation. Another is certainty, which is what Amendment 247 and others are about. The Bill quite rightly focuses on ads where an identifiable HFSS product is shown, with brand advertising and sponsorship exempt. I applaud that, but the Bill is not crystal clear on the point. Within the creative industries, there is a huge amount of uncertainty, which is the enemy of effective regulation, about what is and is not permitted. I believe the terms of the exemption should be set out in the Bill, not least so that, if this or a future Government wish to revisit the matter, they must come back to this House to set out why they are doing it and to seek our consent. Given the potential harm this legislation could cause and the precedent it sets, that must be right.

The final aspect of sound regulation must be the measurement of its effectiveness. Regulation that does not work—and I am afraid that I am sure this will not—should not remain on the statute book simply for the sake of it. If it is found wanting—or, worse, damaging—it should be repealed. This is too important an issue to leave to chance. We should therefore know now what metrics the Government will use to measure the success of these restrictions, the definitions they will employ and how data will be collected. Will they measure the impact on the creative economy as well as on obesity? We should know. If those metrics are not met, the restrictions should fall at the end of the review period.

In the absence of dropping this legislation—I notice some reports that its demise might be part of Operation Red Meat, which we are hearing so much about, and let us hope so—our job is to ameliorate its worst aspects and ensure that it is sound and workable. These amendments do that, and I hope they will find widespread support across the Committee.

Health and Care Bill

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Excerpts
Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage
Wednesday 9th February 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Health and Care Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-IX Ninth marshalled list for Committee - (7 Feb 2022)
Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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My Lords, I rise very briefly, rather enjoying this reunion from our debates during the passage of the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill of a group of people who taught me a great deal about dealing with legislation. We also looked at an amendment that was very like this. There is a phrase I use often: “Campaigning works”. I should make that “Campaigning by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, works particularly well”. We are seeing real progress here, although, as many noble Lords have already said, we need to make sure that this is mandatory and not some kind of voluntary extra.

When I was working on the then Medicines and Medical Devices Bill, I spoke to a number of people from the industry. They were very much concerned about the fact that they wanted tight rules that apply to everybody, otherwise those who cut corners and push the envelope have a competitive advantage against people who doing the right thing, being absolutely open and not flinging money around. Many parts of the sector are keen on tight rules.

It is interesting that it has taken us so long to get to this point when the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, presented ways of doing this back in the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill. We have not heard the Government using their favourite phrasing “world-leading” or “world-beating” very often in this area. As the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, said, we are very much trailing behind other countries in our transparency here.

I will make one final comment. We have a huge problem with public trust—we see this on the street outside your Lordships’ House quite often. Absolute transparency and openness is crucial and, as we heard in Oral Questions earlier, the fact that some companies have been able to profiteer hugely from the pandemic causes more damage to public trust. We need to tackle that with as much of the sunlight of transparency and openness as possible.

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
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Briefly, I also support these amendments, including the Government’s comprehensive amendment, but I was spurred into action by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. It is worth saying that when it comes to public trust, a survey of 28 countries conducted at the end of last year found that British doctors were more trusted by people in this country than doctors in any of the other 27, so we start from a well-founded position of high trust. However, trust in a profession is of course founded on the basis that people will act in a way that puts the interests of the person they are looking after first, and these amendments help to deliver that.

I want to use the opportunity to try to draw the Minister out slightly on a couple of questions supplementary to those which my noble friend Lord Patel raised. Sunlight may indeed be the best disinfectant. but we have two types of shade going on at the moment. The first is that, through the voluntary register which the ABPI established in 2017, we have just under a third of eligible doctors who are not reporting. Therefore, obviously to the extent that the Government commence these amendments on a mandatory basis, that will deal with that aspect of shade; the 68% will become 100%, which will be most welcome.

The second type of shade relates to the scope of the payments that have to be declared. Here, I think the Government’s amendment is potentially very suitably broad. However, it would be wonderful to hear the Minister confirm that it will cover payments to all NHS bodies, not just to trusts or indeed teaching hospitals; that primary care will be in scope; that it will cover the independent sector as well as the NHS; that it will cover payments made to patients’ organisations; and whether, in time, the Government will consider extending it to payments made to health professionals other than doctors. I conclude by simply reporting that when you ask people in this country which profession they most trust, the answer is actually not doctors; it is nurses.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB)
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My Lords, I have my name on this amendment. I will not repeat all the points made by other people so far, but I point out that using the words “shall” or “must” avoids any argument over threshold. The problem with having a word that is not definitive is that there would be arguments over what would and would not have to be declared.

To put a slightly positive note on the whole situation, I say from clinical experience that patients want to go into trials and to contribute to the level of knowledge. Very often, people who are seriously ill will say, “I know that I won’t benefit from it, but I hope that other people will by me going into this trial”. But they want to know that the trial is properly conducted, that everything is open, that nobody is profiteering from their generosity and that they are genuinely contributing to the body of knowledge across the country. When people who I know socially contact me because they have been given a potentially devastating diagnosis and have been referred to somebody, the question is always, “Are they the best in the field?”, which is often followed up with, “Are they doing research in the field?” and “Are they completely up to date?” So often, when people realise that they are deteriorating, they will ask whether there is a trial that they can be entered into.

This goes much further than just being sunlight. This amendment would support future endeavours and innovation in the country and would encourage people to enter into studies.

Health and Care Bill

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Excerpts
Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Report stage
Tuesday 1st March 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Health and Care Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 114-II Second marshalled list for Report - (1 Mar 2022)
Lord Kamall Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Kamall) (Con)
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 2, I will speak to Amendments 57, 78 and 109 in my name. We have heard impassioned and compelling arguments here and in the other place for the need for greater emphasis on mental health in the Bill. We have listened and, as a result, have taken action. The result is the package of amendments brought before the House today. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the many noble Lords across the House who have contributed to the development of these amendments and the advice we have received.

Let us first turn to defining health. I assure your Lordships’ House that this Government remain fully committed to delivering parity of esteem between physical and mental health. We want to support everyone’s mental health and well-being. We are very aware of the impact that the pandemic has had on a number of individuals and communities, particularly the impact on mental health and mental health services.

Amendment 109 removes any potential confusion as to whether references to health within the NHS Act 2006 include mental health. We have made it absolutely clear with our amendment that references to health includes mental health as well as physical health. I know noble Lords will acknowledge that it was our view that the current references to health in the Act would have included mental health, but this amendment is important because it sends a strong signal that health must not just be associated with physical health. Mental and physical health are equally important, and our legislation reflects that fully.

On the transparency and accountability of mental health funding, the Government remain committed to our ambitions in the NHS Long Term Plan to transform mental health services in England. The NHS Long Term Plan committed to increase spending on mental health services in real terms by at least £2.3 billion a year by 2023-24. For each year of the current spending review period, the spend on mental health will increase as a share of the NHS budget. This is in line with the Government’s ongoing commitment to grow investment in mental health services faster than the overall NHS budget. Our amendment seeks to bring added transparency to this commitment and will better enable Parliament, stakeholders and the public to hold the Government to account for meeting this commitment.

The Secretary of State will be required to publish and lay before Parliament, before the start of each financial year, a document setting out the Government’s expectation on mental health spending for the year ahead. This document, a Written Ministerial Statement, will set out whether the Secretary of State expects there to be an increase in the amount and proportion of expenditure incurred by NHS England and integrated care boards, taken together, in relation to mental health, with a supporting explanation. There will also be requirements for NHS England and ICBs to include in their respective annual reports information about such spending to clearly demonstrate performance against expectation.

I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, as well as the noble Baronesses, Lady Hollins, Lady Merron and Lady Tyler of Enfield, for supporting amendments related to transparency and accountability of mental health funding in Committee, and for their constructive engagement since. I hope I have reassured noble Lords that this Government are committed to delivering parity of esteem between physical and mental health. I hope that our amendments address the issues and concerns previously raised and that the House will pass them today. I beg to move Amendment 2.

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
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My Lords, continuing the outbreak of consensus, a large number of mental health stakeholders welcome the fact that the Government have accepted these amendments, which draw heavily on amendments a number of noble Lords brought forward in Committee. I think I said at that point that they would represent a spine-stiffener for the Government in their commitment to ensure that mental health sees a growing share of the growing NHS budget and an accountability booster for the NHS. I think they do that.

However, before the Minister concludes on this item, will he say whether, when setting the mandate for NHS England for the financial year ahead—the mandate that will therefore be laid at some point within the next 30 days—the Government might set the mental health waiting time standards, the very welcome consultation on which concluded last week, in a way that other amendments in this group would look to advance? None of that should detract from the fact that these amendments have wide support outside this place and will make a real difference to mental health in the years to come.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield Portrait Baroness Tyler of Enfield (LD)
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My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 184, tabled in my name. I shall first respond briefly to the government amendment introduced as a result of the discussions in Committee, which set the context for my amendment. I welcome the government amendment requiring the Secretary of State to publish his expectations about increases in the amount and proportion of mental health spending by NHS England and ICBs. I also welcome amendments requiring NHS England and ICBs to include information about spending relating to mental health in their annual reports.

However, it is stating the obvious to point out that their ability to do so is ultimately reliant on the Government—that includes the Treasury—prioritising sustained growth and investment in mental health. This is critical to avoid a widening care deficit in mental health and inequity between physical and mental health care standards. When I say “a care deficit” I want to explain briefly that the healthcare system is still operating in the context of a mental healthcare deficit, where not all those who need help and treatment will seek it or be able to access it and it is estimated that 1.7 million people are waiting to access mental health services.

That is the context of my Amendment 148. It is designed to build on the welcome government amendments and to provide what I call the critical third pillar of reform, which is service access standards. I welcome the measures that the Government have already taken in relation to access standards as part of the NHS long-term plan, but I believe we need to go a bit further and give them more teeth. Waiting time standards can play a critical role in making progress towards our shared ambition of achieving parity of esteem, particularly in service response times. Standards are a driver to secure the resources needed for services to be able to meet demand in an effective and timely way.

Key to the successful implementation of the service access standards will be two things: first, the funding to develop services in a way that means they can meet these standards without leading to unintended consequences, such as transfer of delays from accessing the system to further down the care pathway; and secondly, a clear expectation that these standards must be matched with a sufficient workforce so that the standards are delivering better care and not shifting problems further down the line.

Having these service access and waiting time standards underpinned by legislation would be a very effective lever for improvement by helping to identify where additional resources are needed. I have looked very carefully at the two points in the response published last week to the consultation on NHS access standards. I think the key points were clear: new targets cannot be introduced without additional funding to support them; respondents were generally strongly supportive of new targets in mental health; quality as well as speed of response is important; and expanding the range of the targets to include preventive and early intervention services would be beneficial.

I took heart from the news release that accompanied the publication of that response. I saw that the Minister for Mental Health, Gillian Keegan MP, said:

“Improving access to mental health services is a top priority. These new standards would help patients get support faster—including having a face-to-face assessment within one hour of being referred from A&E. I know there is more to do and that’s why we’re transforming mental health services in England with an extra £2.3 billion a year and will soon be launching a national conversation to inform a new long term Mental Health Strategy later this year”.


That is all very welcome. With such an endorsement from the Minister in the other place, I hope that the Minister will feel able to support my amendment, which provides that critical third pillar of funding, workforce and waiting time standards to ensure that all those aspirations become a reality.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Penn Portrait Baroness Penn (Con)
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 7 in the name of my noble friend Lord Kamall, I will speak to the other government amendments in his name.

We had a passionate debate on climate change in Committee. There is no doubting the profound relevance of environmental issues to the NHS; indeed, it is already leading the way as a health system in tackling climate change. These amendments will ensure that the NHS can continue in that vital work with the confidence needed to deliver. They place a duty on NHS trusts, foundation trusts, ICBs and NHS England to have regard to the Government’s key ambitions on climate change and the natural environment in everything they do. This could mean preparing thousands of NHS buildings to adapt to climate impacts, protecting and enhancing biodiversity across 25 million square metres of trust estate, or decarbonising the millions of kilowatts of energy used by trusts every year. I must emphasise to noble Lords that this includes decisions about the NHS’s procurement of goods and services. The noble Lord, Lord Stevens, was quite right to underline in Committee that, according to NHS England’s data, the NHS supply chain accounts for some 62% of its emissions footprint. It is clear that the NHS will need to take urgent action to decarbonise procurement.

These clauses will give vital legislative grounding and confidence to the Greener NHS programme and further strengthen the commitments made by the UK through the COP26 Health Programme: namely, to develop climate-resilient, low-carbon health systems. Importantly, Amendment 7 includes a power for NHS England to issue statutory guidance on environmental issues to the system. As discussed in Committee, NHS England already has some targeted net-zero guidance in place for current ICSs, but the system currently lacks that critical statutory guidance that sets the direction for the whole NHS. We expect this guidance, in the first instance, to be issued within 12 months of the Bill receiving Royal Assent.

In developing these amendments, we have had to consider the excellent work NHS England has already undertaken on these issues and gain clarity over what value a legislative solution could add. This has included working across government with BEIS and Defra, while also looking closely at the individual amendments proposed by noble Lords in Committee. I believe the amendments tabled in my noble friend’s name achieve these aims, adding the right value in the right way, to the benefit of our natural environment, the NHS and the people who depend on it. I pay tribute to the work of noble Lords in helping us reach this position. I beg to move.

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the Government for supporting these amendments, which reflect the substance of amendments that my noble friend Lady Hayman, I and others brought forward in Committee. That debate rehearsed the health case for action very clearly, as we have just heard, so I will not detain the House by repeating that.

However, I think the events of the last 24 hours have underlined two other reasons why these amendments are so important. In addition to the health case, there is clearly a financial case and we also now clearly see the security and humanitarian case for action. The financial case was underlined by yesterday’s IPCC report:

“The financial value of health benefits from improved air quality alone is projected to be greater than the costs of meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.”


In respect of the security and humanitarian consequences, yesterday, the Government welcomed Shell’s decision to sever its relationship with Gazprom, yet Ministers may have seen an important story in the Health Service Journal suggesting that, over the last two years, at least 17 NHS trusts have continued to rely on gas sourced from Gazprom, which has confirmed today that it continues to get its gas supplies through Ukraine. Decarbonising the health sector will take pound notes out of the hands of dictatorial regimes that are engaged in acts of aggression. For all these reasons, the clarity that these government amendments provide, putting on a sound statutory basis the ability to take fundamental action across the NHS, is most welcome.

Baroness Hayman Portrait Baroness Hayman (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I declare my interest as co-chair of Peers for the Planet and apologise to the House that I did not declare that interest in my enthusiasm to get involved in a Question earlier today. I added my name to Amendments 7, 28, 87 and 94 and obviously welcome the way in which the Government Front Bench has responded to the debate we had and the amendments we proposed in Committee. As my noble friend Lord Stevens said, there is no point in all of us going through the arguments, although I think he added a new dimension in his remarks today; that interplay between health and climate is an important one that we should not neglect.

The Government have done very well in providing a comprehensive suite of amendments that make sure that the considerations of not just the net-zero targets but the targets in the Environment Act and the needs for adaptation, which will be extremely significant in the healthcare field, will be considered at all the correct levels within the new infrastructure that the Bill brings into place. The assurances that the Minister gave on the guidance that will be published and on making sure that procurement, which is such a large spend by the NHS, will also be governed by these considerations are extremely important.

I welcome these amendments across the board. They weave considerations of climate and the environment throughout the ecology of the NHS, and it is an excellent result. The next challenge is to persuade the Government to take the initiative on these issues and to embed these considerations throughout their policies and legislation, which would save a lot of time in the House. But I do not wish to be churlish, and I end by simply reiterating my thanks for the way in which the Government have responded to these amendments.

Health and Care Bill

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Excerpts
Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Report stage
Thursday 3rd March 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Health and Care Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 114-III Third marshalled list for Report - (3 Mar 2022)
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I shall speak to Amendment 82 in the name of my noble friend Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. I attended Second Reading and made my views felt then, but I have not been able to join the deliberations on the Bill since then because of the pressure of other Bills in your Lordships’ House.

Even I, as someone who does not know very much about medicine, know that the most urgent challenge currently facing our health service is a shortage of nurses. I have been lobbied very heavily by the Royal College of Nursing, because Amendment 82 is its number one priority. It feels that, without a co-ordinated work plan, a coherent forward view and knowledge of exactly how the situation is at the moment, it cannot possibly achieve the sorts of numbers that are needed. There were almost 50,000 vacancies before Covid, and you can imagine the pressure that Covid has put on to the NHS—extreme pressure at completely unsustainable levels, and with staff numbers that are actually unsafe. We all know this, yet Boris Johnson and the Conservatives made big promises at the last election—their manifesto made a promise of 50,000 more nurses—and instantly that number began to unravel, as it included existing nurses who do not quit. That is unclever and unsophisticated number crunching.

I do not understand why this Government will not live up to their manifesto commitments. One reason why I have not been able to speak on this Bill since Second Reading is because of all the other Bills coming through, on which the Conservatives have said that they are aiming to achieve their manifesto commitments. They are actually going rather beyond their manifesto commitments in lots of areas—but the fact is that they are picking and choosing as if from a box of sweets the ones that they prefer.

The Royal College of Nursing represents over 480,000 nurses in health and social care. These are people whose pay requests are constantly ignored—and who constantly have their pay cut; in real terms, it has reduced. Just at the point when MPs are getting very welcome extra pay, nurses hang on by their fingertips. We know that vacancies are also a huge problem, with retirement age approaching for a lot of nurses. Nurses need the certainty of planning, and I do not hear those plans coming from the Government, although this is really their job—to manage the economy and manage society in a way that benefits everybody. Clearly, if the NHS fails in any area, that does not benefit anybody at all.

I argue very strongly for Amendment 82, and I just hope that the Government wake up in time to see how necessary it is.

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
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My Lords, I am very pleased to co-sponsor the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, Amendment 80, and to speak in support of a number of the other amendments in this group. I declare my honorary fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of GPs, and thank them and the 100 other organisations across the health and social care sector that have joined in the cross-party support that this amendment is likely to generate.

In considering how to vote on this amendment, I think it really boils down to two very straightforward questions. First, do we need regular, rigorous and independent workforce planning for health, social care and public health? The social care point, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, has just reminded us, is so crucial here. The second question is: if so, will we get it, with appropriate rigour and independence, without this amendment? I suggest that the answer to that question is, unfortunately, no.

The first question is self-evident to most people. We discussed it throughout Committee: workforce pressures mean that it is obvious that we need regular workforce planning. The very long lead times make it critical. Earlier this week, your Lordships were debating pressures in young people’s mental health services and eating disorder services. It is worth reminding ourselves that a new consultant psychiatrist specialising in eating disorders, starting work in NHS mental health services this morning, will have entered medical school 15 years ago. It is worth reminding ourselves, too, at a time when the NHS is confronting long waits for routine operations and needs to deal with a backlog of care, that the new medical student starting undergraduate medicine in September will report for duty as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon in 2037.

So the lead times are clear, yet we have a paradox: more young people and, indeed, mid-career people, would like to join this great campaign, this social movement—the health service, social care and public health—but we are turning them away. In 1945, Nye Bevan said:

“This island is made mainly of coal and surrounded by fish. Only an organising genius could produce a shortage of coal and fish at the same time.”


I suggest that, if Bevan were recasting his aphorism for today, he would say that, at a time when the NHS and social care have such a clear need for more staff, only a workforce planning system of organisational genius could turn away bright and committed young people from undergraduate medicine and other oversubscribed university places for health and other professions.

We have to accept that there will be extra costs from getting this right. The noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, was quite right to draw attention to the fact that there will be savings, including from the £6.2 billion spent in 2019-20 on agency and bank staffing across the health service. But there will be extra costs: the Royal College of Physicians has estimated that doubling undergraduate medicine places would cost perhaps £1.85 billion, which is about one-seventh of the amount that the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee identified last week as being likely to be lost from fraud and waste through the various furlough and other schemes introduced during Covid. So I think we need to put these costs in perspective.

The fact that there will be those costs gives us the answer to our second question. Of course, we need workforce planning, but are we going to get it without this amendment? I am afraid that I do not think we are. In Committee—although I shall not rehearse it—using publicly available materials, I set out the sorry history of what I described as the “wilful blindness” that has been inflicted on the health and social care sector and, indeed, on health Ministers and the Department of Health and Social Care itself, as they have sought to go about this task down the years.

The question before your Lordships is: has the leopard changed its spots? I suspect—and I genuinely sympathise with the Minister’s predicament—that he will tell us that the baton has now been passed from the Department of Health and Social Care to NHS England, so that for the first time it has the responsibility for undertaking this task, and we should be reassured by that fact. In that case, I ask him to give clear guarantees at the Dispatch Box that the proposed new powers of direction for the Secretary of State will never be used to veto or censor any independent estimates that NHS England itself puts forward, including those with a financial consequence. Indeed, I ask that he goes further than that and gives us a Dispatch Box guarantee that NHS England will be entirely free to publish, every two years, without approval, veto or censorship from either the Department of Health or the Treasury, the workforce need, demand and supply models implied in Amendment 80. If those guarantees are not forthcoming from the Dispatch Box, I think your Lordships will be entitled to draw your own conclusions.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab)
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My Lords, would the noble Lord be surprised to hear the rumours that the Treasury has prevented the Minister from responding in a positive way to this amendment?

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
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We await insight from the Minister himself on that point; it is indeed, of course, what the chairman of the cross-party Health and Social Care Committee, Jeremy Hunt, suggested in the House of Commons. We have an immediate litmus test before us, which should help us answer the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. As your Lordships will remember, we noted in Committee the fact that, just 10 weeks before the start of the financial year, when it should have been planning 10 years out, Health Education England still did not have its operating budget for the year ahead. My understanding—I hope to be corrected by the Minister—is that, certainly, as of 10 am, Health Education England still does not have its workforce operating budget for just 29 days’ time. That is precisely because of a set of behind-the-scenes discussions—no doubt courteous, but nevertheless fervent—between the Department of Health and Social Care on the one hand and the Treasury on the other.

Health Ministers are more sinned against than sinning on this, frankly, and in that sense this amendment will strengthen their hand. I suspect that, privately, they will welcome the mobilisation of your Lordships to support their negotiating case. The very fact that Her Majesty’s Government oppose this amendment is proof positive that it is needed. We need it because we need to look beyond the end of our noses. To vote against this amendment would be to cut off our noses to spite our faces.

Baroness Whitaker Portrait Baroness Whitaker (Lab)
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My Lords, this whole group is worthy of government action, and I support Amendments 80 and 81 in respect of speech and language therapists. The NHS Long Term Plan itself states that speech and language therapists are a profession in short supply. The Department of Health and Social Care, in its submission to the Migration Advisory Committee’s review of the shortage occupation lists, argues that speech and language therapists should be added to them because of the pressures facing these professions, particularly in relation to mental health.

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, for whose advice I am grateful, suggests that a minimum increase in the skilled workforce is required in the region of 15%. In recent years, the profession has grown by 1.7% in a year. The Government themselves recognise that they are clearly not delivering the speech and language therapy workforce that we need. No national assessment has been undertaken of the demand and the unmet need for speech and language therapy, which, I remind noble Lords, is essential for people to be able to communicate. Will the Government accept Amendments 80 and 81 or explain otherwise how they plan to improve workforce planning so that speech and language therapy is no longer a profession in too short supply?

Health and Care Bill

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Excerpts
Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Report stage
Thursday 3rd March 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. In particular I am grateful for his specific assurances on the powers of procurement and the question of resource allocation. We can be pretty confident that the Secretary of State would not interfere with the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation or the NHS England response to it. If the Secretary of State were to start messing with the formula, we would get into a very difficult place.

I am still of the view that there was a very good reason we gave NHS England greater freedoms. I think it would not have been possible for NHS England to have published its Five Year Forward View in 2014 or even more so the Long Term Plan in 2019, in circumstances where it had occupied the same relationship with the Secretary of State as it did in the past.

This is taking NHS England from its current degree of independence to something that it was not in the past, but is a little more ambiguous. It will be difficult, for precisely the reasons the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, explained, for the NHS to feel that, when the successor to the long-term plan is published by the successor to the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Birmingham, it is the NHS’s own plan. That has been very important; Ministers have said it a thousand times. Why do we not let that happen? The measures in Clause 39 take a real risk of infringing on the idea that it is the NHS’s own plan.

It does not mean that the Secretary of State is not accountable, but that they are accountable in ways that they can legitimately control: the resource allocation and an expectation of the priorities and outcomes. That is where the Secretary of State should be putting the weight of the Government, not in trying to decide how outcomes in the NHS are best achieved. I do not agree in principle with what is proposed in Clause 39, but I am not going to press that point.

I will, however, if the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, pushes it, support her on Clause 40. I say to my noble friend: look at Schedule 6. The structure of it does not even mention the Independent Reconfiguration Panel. As soon as there is a proposal for a reconfiguration from any of the NHS bodies, it quite clearly places in the hands of the Secretary of State the responsibility to decide whether to go ahead with it or not. That will be exactly the moment when the Secretary of State is drawn in and is not able to be extricated from it.

My noble friend has simply to look at the example of the reconfiguration of congenital paediatric cardiac services to realise that no sensible Minister would have been drawn into that debate at an early stage with any confidence of being able to make a decision that would have been accepted by any of the parties to that debate.

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
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The noble Lord raises the congenital paediatric cardiac case, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, raised the Kent stroke question. On that question, the estimate was that 40 to 50 people will have died or lost their ability to live independently as a result of that two-year delay. Is it not the case that, for the very reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has just set out, those kinds of delays will now be invisible to the naked eye because these proposals will never get off the ground due to the self-censoring of necessary clinical change that would save lives, precisely as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath described?

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
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We all know that when these proposals come forward, there is a lot of local pressure. In many cases, it will be local pressure that is transmitted to the Secretary of State by Members of Parliament who are—

Health and Care Bill Debate

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Health and Care Bill

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Excerpts
Lords Hansard _ Part 1 & Report stage
Wednesday 16th March 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD)
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My Lords, briefly, I support these amendments; my name was on an amendment at an earlier stage. I hope that the Minister will have managed to persuade other parts of government that they will not achieve a smoke-free 2030 in the UK unless they move further and faster on tackling an industry built on promoting ill health and death—the reverse of what the health service seeks to do.

The Department of Health has come a long way in this area, with much cross-party working, and I know that the noble Earl himself has been part of that cross-party support in tackling the terrible health consequences of smoking. I have a sense of déjà vu, as I think others might. Over the years, the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, has been a rather lone voice on the other side. From time to time FOREST, which makes it plain that it is funded by the tobacco industry, kindly sends me its brief, no doubt inadvertently, and I recognise some familiar phrases that have just been voiced. I noted the rueful expression of the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, as the noble Lord, Lord Young, took apart what he had said about the levy.

The Government say that they are committed to delivering a smoke-free 2030, but keep putting off the action required. Not all parts of government are fully aligned to this in the actions taken. The steps proposed in the amendments are designed to help the Government achieve what they say they wish to do. I therefore commend them to the House.

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
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My Lords, I want to make just a small factual supplement to the contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Naseby. In fact, it was a Conservative Government in 1957 who introduced the pharmaceutical price regulation scheme or PPRS, and that scheme has been sustained ever since by Conservative, Labour and coalition Governments. As the noble Lord, Lord Young, pointed out, if it is deemed appropriate to have a form of price and profit regulation for the medicines industry, which delivers products that are essential and life-saving, it does not seem too far a stretch to think that an equivalent mechanism might be used for an industry whose products are discretionary and life-destroying.

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
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My Lords, I was not intending to intervene, but I was prompted to do so not least by the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Birmingham. That the PPRS has been sustained by Governments, albeit amended from time to time, should not lead us to the conclusion that all products should have their pricing and regulation controlled by government. I do not think that the analogy runs at all, so we should ignore the PPRS for these purposes.

My noble friend on the Front Bench whom I believe is replying to this debate and I were in a coalition Government with the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and we were pretty clear then. I remember a decade ago creating a bit of a storm by saying that I wanted to end up with a smoke-free England. We have reached a point now where there are tobacco companies which think that we are going to arrive at that position, and so we should. I do not think that this debate is about whether we achieve that; it is about the mechanisms by which we do so.

If my noble friend reiterates the Government’s intention, willingness and sense of urgency about bringing forward measures, as I hope he does, I would not bind the hands of the Government with these amendments. Frankly, even if they were passed, nothing would happen unless and until the Government bring forward legislation for the purpose. It would be better for us to have the debate and make the position clear. I do not disagree with the arguments presented by the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, and others—when we were in government, we implemented things such as the ban on display in shops and preventing the availability of cigarettes to youngsters through vending machines, which I think was one of the most important things we could do. We made progress; we need to make more. We need the Government to come forward with proposals for that, but these amendments are not necessary if the Government say that they are willing to make progress.

Health and Care Bill

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Excerpts
Baroness Brinton Portrait Baroness Brinton (LD) [V]
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My Lords, although my noble friend Lady Walmsley will be speaking from our Benches on the workforce amendments, I just want to commend the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, on the eloquent speech she made on the need for proper and effective workforce planning. I support everything she said.

I will now speak to Motions D and D1 on genocide and modern slavery, having added my name to amendments at earlier stages of the Bill. I thank the Government for their Amendment 48A in Motion D. Frankly, a review of the NHS supply chains should undoubtedly happen, regardless of the Bill, but the amendment does not go nearly far enough to stop the practice of suppliers to the NHS purchasing goods where there has been a risk of slavery and human trafficking. The amendment talks only about the Secretary of State having to “mitigate the risk”. In the linguistic range of a Minister making commitments, mitigation does not hit even the halfway bar.

We need to be blunt. A very large quantity of NHS medical equipment is sourced, in whole or in part, from the People’s Republic of China. Despite the Government denying that any equipment is sourced from the Uighur region, reports have found that the UK Government have bought more than £150 million-worth of PPE from Chinese firms directly linked to abuses of Uighur rights abuses. As recently as this month, supply chain specialists revealed that the NHS continues to be supplied PPE from a company known to use Uighur forced labour programmes. Without legislation mandating transparency and due diligence, it seems very unlikely that the Government will be able to ensure that they are not sourcing goods from companies practising modern slavery.

Amendment 48B in Motion D1 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, goes beyond the Government’s proposals for a review by seeking to ensure that the Secretary of State must by regulation make provision to ensure that all procurement of goods and services for the health service in England avoids slavery. The UK Government have to face up to their obligations to prevent through the law any forced labour and people trafficking in UK health supply chains. From these Benches we will support Amendment 48B in Motion D1.

Lord Stevens of Birmingham Portrait Lord Stevens of Birmingham (CB)
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My Lords, I will speak in support of Motion B1 on workforce planning and Motion C1 on the Secretary of State’s powers on reconfiguration. As the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, has just reminded us, there is a huge groundswell of support for the need to do proper workforce planning in the NHS, but the fact is that today we do not need to relitigate the fundamental arguments, because your Lordships have already decided, by a margin of 171 to 119 votes on 3 March, that that is indeed what is required.

Of course, if the facts change, we should change our minds. Have the facts changed since 3 March? Have we seen the long-awaited detailed workforce plan for the health and social care sector that has been promised yet suppressed for the last six years? Regrettably, we have not. Have we even had concrete commitments to the detailed, costed and quantified five, 10 and 15-year outlooks that will supposedly be forthcoming in the spring? No, we have not had commitments that those numbers will be able to be produced without fear or favour, or Treasury veto.

However, we have before us two new data points. One is the survey of 650,000 NHS front-line staff, half of whom—52%—are now telling us that they cannot do their jobs properly because of a shortage of staff in their local service. The second data point is the results of the British Social Attitudes survey, telling us that nearly half of our fellow citizens have noticed that fact; they too believe that one of the fundamental problems standing in the way of performance by the health service is the shortage of staff.

If the Government are not inclined to listen to the hundred or so organisations that have supported this amendment or, indeed, to the results of surveys of front-line staff or the public, perhaps they will listen to a commentator from the Spectator:

“The lack of workforce planning by the Government—and its continual refusal to commit to it—means satisfaction from patients and staff is likely to plummet still further.”


I do not believe the Government want that. Nobody wants that, which is why we should take this opportunity to listen to the clear message that we have been sent by patients, staff and the public.

I turn briefly to Motion C1 on the Secretary of State’s powers on reconfigurations. There is an obvious read-across between the discussion on workforce and the discussion on reconfigurations. In the real world, it is often staff shortages which give rise to concerns about the safe provision of services, hence the request for reconfigurations. In these circumstances, and coming just a few days after the Ockenden review of maternity safety, it is all the more dangerous that the new powers in Clause 40 and Schedule 6 would allow the Secretary of State to suppress changes needed to keep patients safe and to pre-empt and override the concerns of local clinicians, local patient groups, local authorities and even the Care Quality Commission.

There could be safeguards but, unfortunately, to date at least—perhaps, depending on what we do today, this will resurface after Easter—we are being asked to support the original text of the Bill, which has taken no account of any of the concerns that have been raised in both Houses during its passage. Instead, on the reconfiguration powers, today the Government are essentially praying in aid an argument not on the substance but on the merits of democratic oversight by the Secretary of State. This is despite the fact that previous Health Secretaries have managed democratically to supervise the National Health Service without requiring these new powers, despite the fact that former Health Ministers—Conservative Health Ministers, Labour Health Ministers and Liberal Democrat Health Ministers—all oppose these measures and have spoken out, including in your Lordships’ House, and despite the fact that democratically elected Health Ministers in just about every other European country have never sought and do not possess these types of powers.

If the Government want to argue Motion C on the crucible of democratic oversight, it seems that by that logic they should indeed support Motion C1 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, which further enhances the democratic oversight of the use of these proposed new powers, giving Parliament the ability to scrutinise these types of interventions. Therefore, for those reasons, frustratingly, perhaps, I find that we are in a position where Motions B1 and C1 are still necessary.

Baroness Harding of Winscombe Portrait Baroness Harding of Winscombe (Con)
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I rise to congratulate my noble friend Lady Cumberlege on her excellent speech and to support her on Motion B1. Addressing workforce shortages in our health system is a wicked problem. It is complex and complicated and it is a problem that is shared by every healthcare system in the world. I have no doubt that my noble friend the Minister and the Government are sincere in their belief that they are doing a lot to address the problem but, as my noble friend said, the problem is that we do not know its scale. Until we do and we are open and honest about the complexity and size of the problem. we will not be able to move forward.

Sadly, this ought to be one of the reasons why the NHS is the best healthcare system in the world. It, above all other healthcare systems, ought to be able to do this sort of long-term, complex, detailed planning as a single-payer, state-provided system. Most developed countries do not have those benefits, yet today we are in a place where the Government appear to be saying that we should just keep doing what we have always done. There is a basic maxim in life that if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got. The reality is that unless we are willing to bend and change, we will not get any meaningful, sustained solutions to this burning problem. My noble friend Lady Cumberlege has bent and changed and has adapted her amendment to try to address what I know were some of the major concerns of the Government about the risk of a verified, firm and unwavering false certainty in a forward forecast and the need to recognise that this is a complex problem where there is likely to be a range. If we are not open and honest about that, we will never really address the issues.

This is a wicked problem that requires us to be brave enough to admit that we do not have all the answers. That is the courage we would need to see in publishing a workforce plan and is why I support Motion B1.