New Clause 12 — De-authorisation of NHS foundation trusts

Part of New Member – in the House of Commons at 5:00 pm on 12th October 2009.

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Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien Minister of State (Health Services), Department of Health 5:00 pm, 12th October 2009

The hon. Gentleman can stand up and give his response rather than sitting chuntering from the Front Bench. If he wants to ask a question, I will happily give him an answer, but if he just wants to dismiss it and chunter, that is up to him. I am not sure that it is the best way of dealing with arguments, but there you go; it is the way he does it.

I shall now deal with new clause 11, which was tabled by the hon. Members for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien) and for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning). It seeks to ensure that when the Care Quality Commission undertakes an investigation or special review into a particular aspect of care pursuant to section 48 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008, relevant bodies are informed. In the case of an investigation or review of NHS services, that would mean informing the relevant primary care trust, strategic health authority and Monitor.

I understand the concerns behind the new clause and I am very sympathetic to its aim; in principle, there is no great difference between us. However, an amendment to that effect is not necessary because the intended purpose is already covered under formal agreements that the CQC has made with Monitor and the SHAs. There is a shared view about what should happen, but I am concerned about some of the drafting problems with new clause 11. I could go into those problems, although there is no great difference between us on what the hon. Member for Eddisbury wants to happen and the various levels of contact.

The CQC can carry out an investigation when it has evidence that suggests a serious problem, which may be putting patients at risk. Under the 2008 Act, it also has new, more powerful enforcement powers, which it will be able to use to tackle serious service failings, such as those in the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. The CQC always informs SHAs when an investigation is carried out. That is clearly set out in a memorandum of understanding that has been signed by the CQC and the SHAs. In almost all cases, the CQC would also question the relevant SHA and PCT as part of its investigation. It would therefore be well aware of what was going on.

The CQC also informs Monitor of an investigation involving NHS foundation trusts. Section 70 of the 2008 Act places a duty on the two regulators to work together. A legal duty therefore already exists. A memorandum of understanding between the two regulators states that, in carrying out their regulatory functions, the CQC and Monitor will inform each other as soon as reasonably possible of any matters that may require action or a response from the other. That includes notification in advance where that is appropriate. Therefore, in the case of investigations, the formal agreements that the CQC has in place with the SHAs and Monitor would provide for the notification that the amendment seeks to achieve. We know from experience that the CQC will also publicly announce any new investigation, and will involve all key stakeholders. I hope that that reassures the hon. Member for Eddisbury that we do not have a big difference in principle. We have already achieved what he and I would like through the agreements that have been made and the legal duty to co-operate in the 2008 Act, which is in place. I therefore do not believe that we need new clause 11.

Amendment 25 seeks to correct a minor drafting error in clause 18(8)(b), which lists orders that are not subject to any statutory procedure. The other orders made in connection with trust special administrators are not subject to any statutory procedure and an order made under subsection (5) of proposed new section 65L should also have been included in the list. That makes the drafting consistent with the Government's original intention, which was approved by the House of Lords Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform.

Foundation trust status and its regulatory framework have brought significant benefits for patients. We want to continue and enhance those benefits, and to encourage more movement towards foundation trusts. However, the Government new clause and amendments will fill an important gap in the current regulations, to enable some of the issues that arose in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire debacle to be dealt with by Monitor and, in due course if necessary, by the Secretary of State. They also ensure that we can help to protect patients on the very rare occasions when a foundation trust fails its local population.

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