‘In section 65KD of the National Health Service Act 2006, after subsection (1) insert—
“(1A) If the Secretary of State, in relation to the report, would be satisfied as mentioned in subsection (1), with the addition, omission and/or alteration of recommendations contained therein that the Secretary of State regards as reasonable—
(a) to secure the safety, quality or efficiency of some or all services, or
(b) in the circumstances of the case
he may accept the final report as if it had been amended to provide for the addition, omission or alteration so specified.
(1B) Where the Secretary of State has accepted the report with amendments as specified in subsection (1A), the Secretary of State must as soon as reasonably practicable—
(a) publish a notice of the decision, the amendments and the reasons for them;
(b) lay a copy of the notice before each House of Parliament.”.’.—(Jeremy Lefroy.)
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
‘(1) In section 65DA(1) of the National Health Service Act 2006 (Chapter 5A of Part 2: Objective of trust special administration) omit “objective” and insert “objectives” and omit “is” and insert “are”.
(2) After subsection (1)(a) insert—
“(b) the continued provision of such of the services provided for the purposes of the NHS by any affected trust at such level, as the commissioners of those services determine.”.
(3) After subsection 1(b) omit “(b)” and insert “(c)”.
(4) In subsection (2) of that section after “The commissioners” insert “of the trust in special administration and any affected trust”.
(5) In subsection (4) of that section after “the commissioners” add “of the trust in special administration and any affected trust”.
(6) In subsection (9) of that section after ““commissioners” means the persons to which the trust provides services under this Act” add “and the commissioners of services at any affected trust”.
(7) In section 65F insert—
“(2E) Where the administrator is considering recommending taking action in relation to another NHS foundation trust or an NHS trust which may become an affected trust, the administrator shall engage with the commissioners of services at any such NHS foundation trust or NHS trust in order to enable those commissioners to make decisions pursuant to the matters set out in section 65DA.”.
(8) In section 651(1)—
(a) after “action which the administrator recommends that the Secretary of State” insert “or the commissioners of any affected trust“; and
(b) after “should take in relation to the trust” insert “or any affected trust”.
(9) In section 65K add—
“(3) Where the final report contains recommendations for changes to be made to services provided by an affected trust, the commissioners of services at that affected trust shall make a decision within 20 working days whether they wish to undertake public and patient involvement regarding all or any of the recommendations and, if they are so minded, shall comply with any arrangements for patient and public involvement agreed by those commissioners under this Act before making any final decision concerning the said recommendations.”.
(10) In section 65KA add—
“(7) Where the final report contains recommendations for changes to be made to services provided by an affected trust, the commissioners of those services shall make a decision within 20 working days whether they wish to undertake public and patient involvement regarding all or any of the recommendations and, if they are so minded, shall comply with any arrangements for patient and public involvement agreed by those commissioners under this Act before making any final decision concerning the said recommendations.”.
(11) In section 65KB(1)(d) after “that” insert “to the extent that the report recommends action in relation to the trust in administration”.
(12) In section 65KB(2)(a) after “decision” insert “in relation to any recommendations made the in relation to the trust in administration”.
(13) In section 65O add—
“(4) In this chapter “affected trust” means—
(a) where the trust in question is an NHS trust, another NHS trust, or an NHS foundation trust, which provides goods or services under this Act that would be affected by the action recommended in the draft report; and
(b) where the trust in question is an NHS foundation trust, another NHS foundation trust, or an NHS trust, which provides services under this Act that would be affected by the action recommended in the draft report.
(14) In section 13Q(4) at the end insert “save to the extent required by section 65K(3) or 65KA(7)”.
(15) In section 14Z2(7) at the end insert “save to the extent required by section 65K(3) or 65KA(7)”.
(16) In section 242(6)(b) at the end insert “save to the extent required by section 65K(3) or 65KA(7)”.’.
This Clause ensures that all commissioners of services affected by a trust special administrator’s report have the right to define local specified services; clarifies that, save for the trust in administration, local commissioners remain the decision makers for services they commission; and restores public engagement for changes other than for a trust in administration.
Amendment 30, page 102, line 31, leave out clause 119.
Government amendments 35, 36 and 11 to13.
I wish to speak to new clause 6, which stands in my name and those of hon. and right hon. Members from across the House.
The new clause would give the Secretary of State some discretion to amend details of the final recommendations from Monitor regarding the outcome of the administration of an NHS foundation trust. As the law stands—so I am advised—the Secretary of State must either accept or reject Monitor’s recommendations in full. If they are rejected, there is another lengthy period of reconsideration. The result is that even if the Secretary of State broadly welcomes Monitor’s recommendations but has concerns about some matters of detail, it appears that he has to reject everything.
I have tabled this new clause as a direct result of my experience representing a constituency that has undergone the very first trust special administration of a foundation trust. I hope it will also be the last—at least in its current format. It has been a hugely time-consuming and costly process, and I would not wish it on any other community, constituency or Member of this House. The new clause would slightly improve the process, but what I would much rather see is a total rethink of the way in which the basic tasks of a trust special administration are carried out, both for NHS trusts and for NHS foundations trusts.
In my view, the relevant legislation—introduced by the previous Government and continued under this one—is not fit for purpose, but that is a debate for another day. In the meantime, I simply urge Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority not to put any other trusts—whether they be NHS trusts or foundation trusts—into the current form of administration. I urge everybody to work together on developing a system that enables trusts that are too small, such as the Mid Staffordshire trust, to be dissolved without having to go into a rapid, short-term and wholesale redesign of services. It can be done and I am certainly willing to work with anyone who wishes to design a better system.
I will not go into the full details of the administration of the Mid Staffs NHS Foundation Trust—that is a subject for a full debate on another day—but I will simply point out that it was made a foundation trust in 2008 on the recommendation of Monitor after a lengthy process, and that it is now being dissolved in 2014 on the recommendation of Monitor after a lengthy process. In paragraph 4.269 of his inquiry report, Robert Francis says:
“There can be no doubt that the Trust should never have been authorised as an FT”,
which happened in 2008. There must be a better way of doing things.
My new clause 6 would give the Secretary of State the power to accept the broad thrust of Monitor’s recommendations in the unhappy event of any future administration, giving her or him discretion to alter their detail without having to reject them in their entirety. The new clause therefore offers the Secretary of State flexibility and discretion in what is too rigid a process. I think that any Secretary of State would welcome that. A constant theme of the Ministers whom I have heard in my short time in Parliament has been that such and such an amendment would introduce too much inflexibility into the law. I am therefore doing exactly what Ministers long for, which is to offer them such flexibility.
Of course, the law—the previous Government’s National Health Service Act 2006, as amended by this Government’s Health and Social Care Act 2012—may already provide flexibility, and my new clause may be unnecessary. While Mid Staffordshire was going through its administration, I was told that the Secretary of State had no flexibility under the law, but when he made his decision two weeks ago, he accepted Monitor’s recommendations with a welcome addition—an instruction to NHS England to review how consultant-led maternity services might still be provided at Stafford. I and my constituents have been arguing that case throughout the administration, and I sincerely hope that NHS England will see how vital it is for consultant-led services to continue in a networked form within the University Hospital of North Staffordshire NHS Trust, of which Stafford hospital will now be an important part.
The hon. Gentleman is making well-informed comments about the whole issue we face. He says that the arrangements need to be looked at on another day, but surely our experience in Staffordshire and the complete confusion over a set of recommendations that have been accepted but cannot be implemented means that we ought to find some way to resolve the whole issue in this evening’s debate, not give the Secretary of State powers to close down general hospitals at random all over the country.
I am grateful to Joan Walley for playing an extremely important and constructive role in this whole matter. She has been very supportive, and she makes some extremely important points. We need to look at the whole issue of administration, to which I will come in a few moments.
The Secretary of State’s decision to introduce the addition has given me considerable comfort about new clause 6, which I tabled before his decision, not being necessary. He does not seem to consider himself entirely constrained by the law into only accepting or rejecting Monitor’s recommendations in full; there is clearly room for proposing changes to details while still accepting the main thrust about the dissolution of a trust.
We shall of course need to see the results of the NHS review of consultant-led maternity services. If, as I hope, they are retained as a vital part of the regional health service—together with the level 1 special care baby unit, which serves a much wider area—it is important that finances are put in place to ensure that they are sustainable. I would therefore welcome clarification from the Minister about how the Department of Health now interprets the law.
If the Secretary of State’s decision on Mid Staffordshire demonstrates that the law allows for positive changes to the details of recommendations without Monitor having to go through another lengthy and legalistic process at a time when, as in the case of Stafford, a hospital is in a very fragile state, I welcome that fact, and new clause 6 will be unnecessary. However, if the Minister wants confirmation of the flexibility set out in the new clause, I would be happy for the Government to accept it or something similar.
Finally, to return to the question of trust special administrations, I believe that they are the right way to dissolve the legal entity of a foundation trust, but they are most certainly not the right way to redesign clinical services. That is not to criticise Monitor generally or the trust special administrators in the case of Mid Staffordshire—I believe that they acted within the remit given to them by this House—but we as a House did not get it right either in 2006 or in 2012. I urge a complete rethink, starting today.
I rise to speak to my amendment 30. When the coalition came to office, it made a series of grand promises about future changes to hospital services. The coalition agreement proclaimed:
“We will stop the centrally dictated closure of A&E and maternity wards, so that people have better access to local services.”
GPs were to be put in the driving seat and given the power to shape local services. That was then; now we have a Secretary of State who has not just failed to stop centrally dictated closures but wants to legislate to make them much easier. What a difference four years make.
Clause 119 allows a hospital to be closed or downgraded simply because it happens to be near a failing one. It denies local people a meaningful say in those life and death decisions. It creates an entirely new route for hospital reconfiguration—top-down and finance-led. It subverts the established process in the NHS, which requires that any changes to hospitals should first and foremost be about saving lives, rather than saving money. It puts management consultants, not medical consultants or GPs, in the driving seat. By any reckoning, it represents a major change of policy from the one originally set out by the coalition.
If the right hon. Gentleman is so concerned about issues of financial failure, why did the Health Act 2009, through which the previous Labour Government introduced the regime, allow trust special administrators to consider only financial failure, not care failure, a fact which we are changing in the Bill?
The Minister anticipates me—he has hit the nail on the head. It was a different vehicle. It was a vehicle for financial and administrative reconfiguration, not service reconfiguration. In our view, those important decisions cannot be imposed on people, but should follow an established process. It should begin with local consultation, with local elected members involved in overview and scrutiny having the chance to make challenges, and then it should be referred for independent reconfiguration. That was the previous Government’s established policy, and in my view it is the right way to make changes in the NHS. As I shall explain, that is why I believe that he and his colleagues are spectacularly wrong.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that as well as being profoundly undemocratic, the measure is likely to be incredibly counter-productive? Any Government who try to use a trust special administration to impose sweeping change without proper local public engagement will face a barrage of opposition because, as he says, change should be driven by clinical arguments, not imposed top-down.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right. The measure risks damaging, rather than building, public trust in the whole process of changing hospitals. In the end, that is probably the most powerful argument against what the Government are seeking to do.
By any reckoning, the proposal is a major change of policy from the one set out in the coalition agreement; yet there has been no Green Paper, no White Paper, no policy document, no statement to Parliament, no proper explanation of the Government’s intentions and no justification of the extreme measures sought. Instead, on the back of a court defeat, the Secretary of State has rammed a new clause into the Bill, asking the House to give him sweeping powers over the NHS in all our constituencies without even having the courtesy to come to the House to make the argument for the changes himself. How arrogant to expect us just to rubber-stamp the powers, without even coming to explain himself. That really shows the House a major discourtesy.
The fact is that the Secretary of State has not adequately made the case for what he wants to do. Instead, Members are asked to take a leap of faith and to trust him, but that is very hard to do when we see what happened to the people of Lewisham. In standing up to this Government, they won a victory for everyone; without them, we would not be debating clause 119 today. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend Dame Joan Ruddock and my hon. Friends the Members for Lewisham West and Penge (Jim Dowd) and for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander), who provided superb leadership when the people of Lewisham felt incredible outrage at their trusted and valued local hospital being prised out of their hands.
I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend. He should also pay tribute to the efforts of all the clinicians, GPs and health workers. It was not just down to the leaders of the community; everybody was united. That was because the decision was not about clinical standards, but was an accountant’s solution to a different problem.
My right hon. Friend makes a very important point. The community came forward, with clinicians standing beside ordinary people on the streets of Lewisham, to say, “This is not acceptable.” My right hon. Friend and others gave voice to that concern and brought it to this House. That incredible campaign gave heart to campaigners everywhere. She was right to put that point on the record.
I agree with my hon. Friend. That is the point that the Minister revealed in his intervention. The original power was designed for something entirely different. It was designed to deal with financial failure in a trust. It put in place measures to dissolve and rescue that trust through administrative reconfiguration. It was never intended as a vehicle for back-door reconfiguration across a whole health economy. That is where the Government got themselves into trouble. The fact that they cannot see that now, after the court has told them that they went way beyond Parliament’s original intention, reflects badly on their ability to listen.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reflect on what he has just said. Does he really believe that we can make the changes that are necessary, whether in an individual health institution or in a whole health economy, by looking purely at the finances, without looking at the effect that changing the financial structure needs to have on the structure of care delivery, particularly through the delivery of more integrated care, which he and I so often talk about?
This is where the right hon. Gentleman and I differ. I believe that we need to begin by asking whether there is a clinical case for change and build from there. Clause 119 seeks to turn things around. It starts with the financial case for change and the clinical issues come second. The previous Government established a very clear policy, advised by Sir Ian Carruthers, that the clinical case must be front and centre, and that we must build from there. Clause 119 completely subverts that.
The shadow Secretary of State is rewriting history. Under the TSA clause written by the Labour Government, only financial failure could be considered as part of a trust special administrator regime. That is not the case under the changes in the Bill, in which it is about patient care. The Care Quality Commission has a clear role in assuring that patient care. Will he now accept that?
The Minister makes my point again. The powers dealt only with financial failure. That is the point. The Government tried to misappropriate those powers and use them as a back-door route to impose reconfiguration on local communities. That is where they got into trouble. That is why the High Court said that they were acting beyond their powers and breaking Parliament’s original intention in the legislation. In his two interventions, he has made my fundamental case, which is that this is the wrong vehicle for making major changes to hospital services.
My right hon. Friend says that clause 119 is the result of defeat in the courts. That is true. However, the Government capitulated before the decision of the appeal court was known, just after the decision of the High Court in July. My contention—if I am able to catch your eye later, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would be happy to elaborate further—is that the Government knew from the outset that they had no legal power to do it and were just, in the way of all bullies, trying it on until somebody stopped them.
That is why I say, “Thank God for the people of Lewisham.” The Government may well have got away with it if they had picked on a community that does not know how to fight like my hon. Friend’s community. I say in all seriousness that they did a service for every community that is worried about its hospital services. That fight inspired everybody. He is right that the arrogance is breathtaking.
We have not had a White Paper or an explanation of why the Government have tried to misappropriate these powers. In the absence of information, mistrust is building about the Government’s intentions. Why are they doing this? It seems to many people that they would not be driving these powers through today if they did not have every intention of using them to the full. It will not have escaped people’s attention that financial problems are building in the NHS, with the King’s Fund predicting that more than one in five hospitals will end this year in deficit. The Labour party has today identified 32 communities where there are entrenched financial problems and that could be at risk of imposed change if clause 119 passes.
The Minister must answer a straight question: are any plans being worked up in the Department of Health, NHS England or Monitor to begin an administration process in any of those areas or in any other parts of the country if the clause passes? Jeremy Lefroy made a similar point a moment ago. Indeed, he went further and said that there should not be a further administration process. I hope that the Minister will listen to that point. The House deserves an honest answer to that question today before it can be expected to give its consent.
As a constituency MP, I have seen hospitals that are well supported by their community, and which happen to be in Labour marginal seats, create powerful political forces. As a result, decisions were made by two of the right hon. Gentleman’s predecessors that materially damaged the delivery of secondary health care in my constituency.
He will therefore understand why I am considerably happier with the arrangements in the Bill, which take both care and money into account. The Secretary of State will have the powers that he needs to make sense of the delivery of health care so that it is not at the mercy of the kind of decisions that his predecessors took.
Before the hon. Gentleman makes that argument, I suggest that he speaks to the people of Lewisham to see whether they think that the process was fair. I suggest that he goes and speaks to the people of Stafford to see whether they think that the process has been fair. I do not know how he can argue that the new process is better than the original process, whereby there was always local engagement and through which elected Members had a chance to refer matters to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel.
We often debate this matter in the House and we all agree in principle with the concept of reconfiguration, until it is the local hospital in our constituency that is affected. That is the conundrum. What facility does the right hon. Gentleman think the Secretary of State and the Department of Health need to overcome the fact that every MP will defend their local hospital, even though reconfigurations are clearly required?
The hon. Gentleman makes that argument as if there were no changes to hospitals under the previous Government. There was plenty of change, but there is a right way and a wrong way of doing things. I would argue, as I just have, that the previous way of doing things was a better way.
In a moment.
The previous Government made changes to stroke services in London just before the last election. The number of units went down from 12 to eight. That was based on a clinical case for change. We took that argument to local people and said, “Look, it will save lives if this goes through.” That is how the Department can take people with it—by building a case for changing hospital services. Clause 119 threatens to set that back, because it puts finance in the driving seat. That risks losing public trust in the case for change. That is why what we are being asked to endorse today is, in my view, fundamentally wrong.
My right hon. Friend has made his point powerfully. I was going to ask him for an example of how it is possible to make a reconfiguration that is clinically driven. He has given the example of stroke services in London. Another example is coronary services in the north-east, where an overwhelming clinical case was made by clinicians and accepted by the general public.
The difficult thing for me is that when I think back to some of the processes I was involved with—stroke services in London, child care and maternity services in Greater Manchester, changes to A and E across the country, Chase Farm hospital, and other places—those issues were cynically used by those on the Government Benches when they were in opposition, and it was a bare-knuckle fight to save every hospital in the land. That is what they said, whereas we made the case for change because it would improve patient safety. I would not change my tune if I was in opposition; I still believe that hospitals need to carry on changing, but as I said, I will not do that by imposing changes on local people. The right way is to explain why, and take people with us.
Let me give my right hon. Friend another example. I and my hon. Friend Jim Dowd both supported the closure of a local children’s hospital, and its services were moved to Lewisham hospital. When the trust special administrator looked at Lewisham hospital, children’s services were not even considered.
Government Members would do well to listen to my right hon. Friend because she followed that whole process in detail. If people listen carefully, she is saying that clinical evidence took second place, and the process was driven by management consultants, not by clinicians. Government Members told the House that doctors would be in charge from now on, but that was not the experience of my right hon. Friend or the hon. Member for Stafford. That is why this proposal should not be accepted by any Member of the House.
My right hon. Friend says that the propositions were made by management consultants. He will be aware that those consultants were from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which was Northern Rock’s auditor and did not notice that it went broke, and KPMG, which was the auditor for Halifax Bank of Scotland and Bradford and Bingley, and did not know that they went broke. They are probably giving bad financial advice as well as clinical advice.
I am not sure there is much I can add to that. Why are management consultants better placed—my right hon. Friend makes the point that they are not—to make sweeping changes to hospitals in our constituencies than experts and clinicians?
It is always dangerous to wander into territory that is not necessarily our own, but what happens—or is likely to happen—here today, has an awful habit of happening up in Scotland tomorrow. As a consequence of the fact that the Scottish Government are perhaps the most centralist and draw in all their powers, what representations, if any, has my right hon. Friend made to his equivalent in the Scottish Parliament to find out exactly how they would go about the same business?
I speak to my counterpart in the Scottish Parliament on a regular basis, and we are clear that this proposal is not the way to take people with us or build support for change in the NHS. This is a way to alienate people and damage public confidence, and that is why it is so dangerous.
I will make some progress but I will give way to the hon. Gentleman before the end of my speech.
Let me set out more of the background, because the Minister raised it a moment ago. In 2009 I took proposals through the House to create a process that could be used in extremis to deal with a trust that had got into serious financial problems. That was a financial and administrative vehicle, not a vehicle for widespread service change across the health economy. That is why the High Court was quite correct in upholding Parliament’s original intention when it accepted the case of the people of Lewisham against the Secretary of State, and threw out his plan to downgrade a much-loved and successful hospital. At that point, common decency would have suggested that the right response to the reverse in court would have been to listen to the court and bow down gracefully. Instead, it appears for all the world as if in a fit of pique, the Secretary of State is changing the law to get his way because he can. Imagine the outcry if someone caught breaking the law could simply come along and change it to their satisfaction. We would not accept that for burglars, and we should not accept it for politicians.
The right hon. Gentleman is being very generous in giving way. He makes the point that, during his time in office, the regime was very limited. In the interests of consistency, I point out that page 6 of his own impact assessment for the TSA regime in May 2009 states:
“NHS Trusts…are not free-floating, commercial organisations …State-owned providers are part of a wider NHS system.”
That directly contradicts what the right hon. Gentleman has just been saying.
Is the Minister listening to the debate and to what I am saying? I have explained to him carefully that that was a vehicle for financial and administrative reconfiguration. Yes, a neighbouring trust might have had to come and help with a solution to carry on with the administration and the running of that trust. That is the point, and that is what he has just read out. It was never a vehicle for service change—I do not know how many times I can make that point to the Minister before he actually listens.
I will come on to that point, but the CQC had existing powers on care failure, and powers to move more quickly than clause 119 provides for. Adequate powers were in place to deal with the point the hon. Gentleman has just made.
In truth, it is arrogance in the extreme for the Government to be coming along today—and worse, it seriously risks damaging public trust in how change in the NHS is made. That will be the real loss if the clause is accepted. It threatens to destroy any public faith in a sense of fair process governing these crucial decisions, and any prospect of cross-party consensus on a way to make changes to hospital services.
Making changes to those services is about the most difficult decision that politicians have to make, but the fact is that hospitals need to change if we are to make services safer and respond to the pressures of an ageing society. We did not shy away from that in government, and we do not say something different now. However, there is a right way and a wrong way of going about such things.
The Government’s answer—to use a brutal administration process to take decisions above the heads of local people—is a spectacularly wrong response to a very real problem, and precisely because those decisions arouse such strong emotions, we must find better ways of involving people, not shutting them out. If people suspect a stitch-up, and see solutions imposed from on high, they will understandably fight back hard. Does the spectacle of tens of thousands of people marching in Stafford or on the streets of Lewisham not give Ministers pause for thought that this new approach might seriously set back the goal of better public engagement in the NHS?
I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and I have listened extremely carefully to what he has said. Wycombe lost its A and E under his Government. Does he seriously suggest that that change was not imposed on the people of Wycombe, or that they were listened to, engaged and approved of the change?
I am saying to the hon. Gentleman that the previous Government had a process at the end of which was an independent panel—the independent reconfiguration panel—to take a decision on whether a proposal was right or wrong in the interests of patient safety, which was the driving principle. I will defend the changes we made to improve services. I have given him the example of stroke services in London. The Opposition are not against making change in the NHS, but we are emphatically in favour of local people in areas such as his having the ability to have their say in the process. Clause 119 seeks to drop solutions on local people from on high.
Our policy was set out in the Carruthers review, commissioned by Patricia Hewitt in 2006, which concludes:
“Reasons for change should be built on a clear evidence base of clinical and patient benefits.”
That principle guided the Darzi review towards the end of the previous Government, which put quality centre stage. The Darzi review influenced the plans for stroke services in London and others, and the difficult changes we planned to make in south-east London before the last election. A detailed consultation, “A Picture of Health”, had brought together a case for change to how services were delivered across the area. It was given formal approval before the election, but was subject to the Government’s moratorium after it.
In the space of a few years, Ministers have gone from campaigning outside hospitals to save services to campaigning for extra powers to close them down without debate. That will leave the NHS more top-down than ever before, with the patient and public voice utterly marginalised.
I want to deal with whether clause 119 gives powers to shut down services for clinical reasons. The fact is that the CQC already has power to take urgent action to shut down unsafe hospital wards or services. Nothing in the clause allows the failure at a single trust to be dealt with any quicker than it was previously. In fact, the clause extends the period the TSA can spend on drafting the report, elongating what was designed to be a very quick process.
Opposition Members are clear that the clause adds nothing, but instead takes away the patient, public and professional voice, and establishes the dangerous principle that changes to hospitals can be financially and not clinically driven. We will vote for amendment 30 to delete the clause, but we will also back new clause 16, tabled by Paul Burstow, which returns a degree of power to local people.
I am sorry that the Secretary of State is not here, but I ask the Minister to pass on my message to him. The NHS does not belong to him to chop and change as he pleases. It belongs to everyone. He would do well to remember that. The way to achieve change is to involve the public early on, give them a meaningful say and build confidence in the clinical case for change. Clause 119 sets back that cause and will damage already fragile confidence in hospital reconfiguration. In the end, that is the most powerful argument against it. By shutting the public out, the measure risks creating a backlash against change in the NHS when it needs to change to survive. I appeal to Members on both sides of the House to think about that and to put constituency before party when voting on this crucial measure.
I have left instructions for my body to be left to Oxford university medical school, partly because there is quite a lot of it, but also because I hope that, in that way, I can demonstrate that engraved on my heart are the words, “Keep the Horton General”. When Andy Burnham was Secretary of State for Health, my local general hospital was threatened with the downgrading of its maternity and children’s services. We went to the health overview and scrutiny committee, which referred matters to the independent reconfiguration panel. As a consequence, we now have consultant-delivered children’s services and a consultant-led maternity service. I, too, am slightly disappointed that the Secretary of State is not here to listen to the debate, because I am concerned about the proposals as someone who has had to contest the downgrading of hospital services.
I have some questions to put briefly to my hon. Friend the Minister. The “Dear colleague” letter circulated to us gives the impression that the powers in the proposals will be used only in exceptional circumstances, when services are clinically unsafe or when a trust is financially insolvent. However, hon. Members know that many trusts will end up with a deficit this year. I need the Minister’s assurance that the measures will be used in truly exceptional circumstances. They have been used only twice so far, in Mid Staffordshire and Lewisham. However, if TSAs are to be used simply if a trust moves into deficit, rather than going into a process of health overview and scrutiny committees and the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, that is a matter of great concern.
I hope I can reassure my hon. Friend on that now, before my closing remarks. Andy Burnham did his best to conflate routine service reconfiguration, which should be clinically led in the best interests of patients, with those in extremis measures, which have been used only twice in five years. They were used only in circumstances of extreme hospital failure when patients’ lives were at risk. There is a clear distinction. I hope my hon. Friend finds that reassuring.
I do find that reassuring, but I have a final question that I hope my hon. Friend will address when he winds up the debate. There has to be a trigger, but what will the trigger be for these extreme circumstances? In other words, what distinguishes a proposal for hospital reconfiguration, in which local people can go to the health overview and scrutiny committee and the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, from a crisis situation, such as occurred in Mid Staffordshire and may have occurred in Lewisham? We all have local hospitals and we all need to be able to explain to our constituents how we might find ourselves in the circumstances of these short-cut situations. We really need Ministers to make it clear to the House that these powers will be used in extremis, and I hope that my hon. Friend will address that point when he winds up.
I agree strongly with the sentiment expressed by Jeremy Lefroy that no community should be subjected to the tender mercies of the trust special administrator regime. It is brutal, harsh, unfair, unreasonable and impervious to local knowledge or opinion.
Following the way in which most reports are presented, I shall start with my executive summary—my understanding of what happened in the South London Healthcare NHS Trust. Sir Tony Baldry was wrong. The special administrator was not appointed to Lewisham hospital. That is the very heart of the matter. He was appointed to the South London Healthcare NHS Trust, which is the adjoining trust, then comprising the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Woolwich, the Princess Royal university hospital in Orpington and Queen Mary’s hospital in Sidcup. He then decided to take a well-functioning, well-respected, well-performing and financially sound institution, in the shape of Lewisham hospital, and use it to deal with problems elsewhere.
In an Adjournment debate 18 months ago when the issue first occurred, I used the simile that it was like the administrator for Comet advising that the best thing to do, in the interests of Comet, was to close down Currys. That is exactly what the trust special administrator did.
The short answer is no, I do not wish to comment.
Lewisham was stitched up from day one. In 40 years as a public representative I have rarely come across anything so disreputable, so devious, so mendacious, so dishonest and so duplicitous as the process that was employed regarding south London health care. It started on
May I just clarify my concern that administrators can reach out, far beyond where we initially thought they could, into such areas as community hospitals, of which there are several in my constituency? The NHS is in such a financial mess, and getting worse, that these powers will inevitably provide a temptation to interfere more, and the Secretary of State will be able to close hospitals against the will of local people.
I accept absolutely the hon. Gentleman’s point. The wording of the clause is such that the powers are virtually unfettered—they are untrammelled. It does not say that an administrator can make recommendations about neighbouring trusts or nearby trusts; it says that they can make a recommendation about any trust anywhere in the entire health economy. It will be a threat to every single Members’ community willy-nilly, because it will be the new norm.
I will come on to what Lewisham experienced previously, but there used to be clinically led reconfiguration panels. This Government seem to have eschewed them. They are difficult and complicated, but they need to be so because this is a premier public service that matters so much to people in every part of this country. They are eschewing that in favour of an administrative route that will give them untrammelled powers.
I thank the equally gallant hon. Gentleman and a neighbouring Member of Parliament. I, too, have never understood why Lewisham hospital had to be involved in this exercise, and I still fail to see why it has to suffer as a consequence of the failure of other hospitals that, although they are outside my constituency, affect my constituents deeply.
The hon. Gentleman is right. We have discussed the impact of this on our constituents many times.
I will try to shed some light on why Lewisham was put in the firing line, and why such administrative vehicles are so dangerous and antithetical to good health care. On
I thought this was rather strange because if they were looking at the south-east London NHS, why not invite the hon. Members who represent Southwark and Lambeth, the other two boroughs that comprise south-east London? I think the answer is that the services provided principally in Southwark and Lambeth are provided by foundation trusts in the shape of King’s, and Guy’s and St Thomas’. Various people were there, including my right hon. Friend Mr Raynsford, my hon. Friend Clive Efford and the hon. Members for Beckenham (Bob Stewart) and for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire); there were probably some others as well. There were various NHS officials including David Flory, who at the time—I do not know where he is now—was a deputy chief executive, and a woman whom I later discovered to be Hannah Farrar, who played a considerable role in the work of Mr Kershaw as the administrator and came to be roundly despised right across Lewisham for her efforts.
I remember them saying repeatedly—almost as if it were some kind of religious incantation—that “the solutions to the problems of South London Healthcare NHS Trust cannot be found solely within South London
Healthcare NHS Trust.” I woke up at that moment to the notion that they were after Lewisham again and that that was the only reason we had been invited. At the margins of every constituency, people can be treated in a neighbouring health area rather than the one they are currently in, so there would be some impact there. They were signalling the fact that it was going to be a backdoor reconfiguration, although the Secretary of State, in announcing the original order, said that it was not a backdoor reconfiguration. In football parlance, that is the same as getting your retaliation in first. By saying that it was not going to be a backdoor reconfiguration, that is exactly what it was going to be without any of the four so-called tests that the Government have much trumpeted but never used.
The key element of the four tests is the consent of local commissioners. The summer reshuffle gave us a different Secretary of State but he accepted with alacrity and enthusiasm the task that his predecessor had set out. As my right hon. Friend Andy Burnham mentioned, just four or five years previously Lewisham had been through a clinically led process of reconfiguration, called “A Picture of Health.” It found that there was an incontrovertible case for Lewisham to remain as a fully functioning district general hospital and for the formation of the South London Healthcare NHS Trust with the three hospitals that I have mentioned. That report was independently vetted by Professor Sir George Alberti, professor of surgery at King’s College, London, and was found to be sustainable and reliable. The decision on how health care is provided in this country should be made by a clinically led process assessed by a clinician.
For some reason, NHS London, as it once was, always had the idea that there should be only four A and Es in south-east London; St Thomas’ over the river, King’s, the Princess Royal in Orpington and the Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich. It did not want Lewisham; I do not know why it has been obsessed with that for years. It obviously saw the opportunity to dust off that idea—despite the fact that Lewisham had only recently been through a clinical reappraisal—and tried to achieve its goal.
It set out a timetable which, as Jeremy Lefroy will agree, was pretty brisk to put it mildly for setting up the TSA South London healthcare. There were 75 working days between
I will describe briefly how the TSA process works because, let us not forget, if this clause goes through, this could be coming to a community near you. They—and I say “they” because they come mob-handed, bringing all their own clinical advisers—are almost like the Moonies: they have a mission, a task, to bring understanding to those who are less well endowed with it than themselves. All the advisers are imported and paid for, and, together with the consultants—who, as was pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh, are management consultants, not clinical consultants—they set about their task.
One thing that amazed me was the astounding rate at which they were able to get through public money. It was absolutely phenomenal. The consultants—as we were told by my right hon. Friend Frank Dobson, they were mainly from KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers—consumed over £2 million of the £5 million cost of the TSA process. The people to whom they were least likely to listen were the local clinicians, whether GPs or hospital doctors, and the local residents and patients. Those people were invited to the consultation groups—although not to the public meetings—but they were then told what they could and could not discuss. If they tried to discuss anything that was not on the facilitators’ list, they were threatened with expulsion. If that is the consultants’ idea of public engagement, it does not commend itself much to the public.
I want to ensure that my hon. Friend does not end this part of his speech without reminding the House that one of the things that those involved in the TSA process intended to do was sell off half the land occupied by the buildings of Lewisham hospital—and that was not in the public consultation document.
It is with some trepidation that I must disagree with my right hon. Friend. In fact, the figure was closer to two thirds of the estate. The scheme was so well engineered that they left the bit that we were keeping, allegedly, for whatever was going to be there—a glorified first aid post—completely landlocked. There was no access apart from via the River Ravensbourne, which is not the mode of transport favoured by most people using Lewisham hospital. Oh yes, it was all worked out well beforehand.
The public meetings following the publication of the draft report were, of course, rather more difficult to control. People were able to ask questions, although they did not receive many answers. Those who were presenting the case on behalf of the trust special administrator did not seem particularly receptive to what was being said, although on occasion, when they came up against a difficult objection, they would say “South London Healthcare NHS Trust is losing £1 million a week: £1 million that is not being spent on health care for patients.” We know that—it is self-evident—but when they were told “That is not the problem of Lewisham hospital”, and asked “Can you not understand that?” , the answer was no, they could not understand it.
That was followed by a little homily of the kind much beloved of some people. “If your domestic budget was being overspent week after week, you would need to take action, would you not?” Naturally everyone agreed, but a woman who attended the public meeting at Sydenham school said to Mr Kershaw “If your domestic budget was being overspent, of course you would have to do something about it, but that would not include breaking into the house of the people next door and nicking all their stuff”—which is what was being proposed in south London by the special administrator.
After attending numerous meetings with Mr Kershaw and his associates, and at the other south London hospitals, I eventually concluded that—recognising that those who would be worst affected by their proposals were hardly likely to be very receptive to them—they automatically assumed that there would be opposition and hostility, and automatically factored in and discounted it, saying “Of course they are going to object to the changes, but we have a task and a mission to pursue.” The whole process was condescending, impenetrable and antagonistic. The special administrator and his acolytes and accomplices had a mission, given to them before they ever left Richmond House, which they were determined to deliver. They already knew the answer, and they were not going to bother to do anything other than go through the motions.
We owe thanks to Lewisham council, to the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign and, amazingly enough, to the High Court and the Appeal Court, whose three judges—Lords Justices Dyson, Underhill and Sullivan—within 24 hours unanimously overturned the Secretary of State’s case that he had the powers to do this. As I have said, the Secretary of State had already capitulated by then. The Government knew from the outset that this was legally questionable. They knew they did not have the powers to behave in the way they were behaving, but they basically just said, “Who’s going to stop us?” I will tell you who stopped them: the people of Lewisham and their supporters and the High Court. That is who stopped them.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. More communities could face this threat, but is not the point that those communities would not have the ability to fight it in the way that Lewisham was able to fight and defeat it?
My right hon. Friend is right; that is precisely the point and that is precisely what this Government intend. I have absolutely no doubt about that; their writ will run whether people want it or not.
After all that, what is the current position of South London Healthcare NHS Trust—after that £5 million? Princess Royal in Orpington is now an adjunct of King’s College hospital. The TSA was quite happy to say the whole thing should be passed lock, stock and barrel to King’s. There was a rather unseemly squabble about the size of the bung King’s should get for taking on Princess Royal, but there was no specification about the services that should be provided there or anywhere else; that was entirely up to King’s. Queen Mary’s, which of course is not a fully functioning district general hospital, is now being managed by Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, the primary care trust in that part of the world. Again, the TSA made no recommendations about what services, or what range of services, should be provided there.
Queen Elizabeth, which, of course, is the biggest problem in what was South London Healthcare NHS Trust, has now merged with Lewisham university hospital in the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust. It is now managing a very difficult proposition; I do not dispute that for a moment. I have my doubts about whether that is the best move for the people of Lewisham, but I understand why it has been done. Yet, the board at university hospital Lewisham was prepared to enter into that agreement before the TSA even set foot in the area. So what we have now in south-east London was entirely possible by rational argument and reasoned consent without the need for the TSA and all the disruption, anguish and distress he and his acolytes have caused. I say to Members voting on this tonight, “Remember; you may not want to visit a TSA and I don’t blame you, but that won’t prevent them from visiting you if this clause goes through.”
I start by acknowledging the receipt of a petition handed to me yesterday, containing 159,000 signatures collected by members of 38 Degrees, expressing their concerns about the matter we are debating today. I know that a great many Members will have received e-mails about that and will have their own opinions, and I want to discuss the issues.
Will the right hon. Gentleman refresh my memory? Is that the same pressure group that a few years ago was saying that the NHS was going to be privatised, which is completely untrue, and which a couple of months ago was saying that it was about to be silenced by some Bill the Government were pushing through yet is now very noisily campaigning once again? Surely this cannot be the same completely unreliable group of left-wingers with links to the Labour party, can it?
That was a lot of accusations and I will leave 38 Degrees to answer for itself. All I wanted to do was formally announce that it had given me this petition because, out of conscience, I thought that was the right thing to do. I want now to share my concerns about, and view of, new clause 16.
First, however, I want to reflect on what the shadow Secretary of State, Andy Burnham, said. He made the point, on which I think there is consensus, that we should not reach the stage at which a trust special administration process is embarked on, and that we need to take every possible step to avoid that. That means that we must learn the lessons from the successful reconfigurations and reorganisations. Unfortunately, there are too few successful reconfigurations that do not lead to people mounting the barricades to oppose the change. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the example of stroke services, but such successes are few and far between. Part of the reason for that is that, historically, the NHS has not been good at engaging with its population in a way that brings them with it and gives them a feeling of being jointly involved in the process. People need to feel part of a shared endeavour and that their health services are fit for their community. That is what we need to instil in the process if we are to avoid the need to use the power that the Government are proposing.
I accept that no NHS organisation is an island. Hospitals sit in complex webs of health care, and changes to one hospital will have knock-on effects on those around it. It is therefore right, when a trust is deemed to be failing administratively, financially or clinically, that the consequences of decisions about its future should be set in that wider context. I said as much in Committee. This is what clause 119 sets out to achieve.
I also expressed concern in Committee about the arrangements for engaging the public. I suggested that local authorities, which have strategic and scrutiny responsibilities in health, should be fully engaged in the trust special administration process. I am pleased that the Government have accepted that, and tabled amendments to clause 119 in order to achieve that. However, while local authorities have a role in giving voice to the wider public interest—indeed, in Lewisham, the local authority was critical in regard to the legal challenge—I believe it is essential that the views of the public are represented in other ways as well. When the TSA process is triggered, it should be pervious to those views. That is a role for the healthwatch organisations, which this Government put in place a year or so ago. They are well fitted to discharge that role, and I am pleased that, as a result of my representations, the Government are tabling amendments to add such a provision to the Bill.
When the trust special administration process was first introduced in 2009, Labour Ministers told the House that it was to be used only as a last resort, and that must remain the position of the coalition Government today. I believe that that is the case.
The hon. Gentleman anticipates my next point. It is far from clear how the judgment should be made that a trust is failing. In my view, the gateway to the process should be a narrow one, and it should be jealously guarded. My concern is that so many trusts are sitting on top of private finance initiative debt, and that hospitals could be at risk as a consequence. That debt amounts, over time, to about £70 billion; a significant burden has been hung around the neck of the NHS. I want to ensure that we have processes that can recognise and manage that without tipping organisations into crisis unnecessarily.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that trust special administrators coming in and making recommendations, as they have done in the case of Staffordshire, can completely undermine the hospitals that are being asked to take over the failing hospitals? Such a process brings about no resolution to the problem at all.
I think the hon. Lady will find some sympathy for that view.
Local commissioners and trusts should be responsible for sorting out difficulties that could lead to a failure. Again, it needs to be clearer what happens at the pre-failure stage, and Ministers need to work with NHS England and Monitor to set out the pre-failure regime so that it is crystal clear what needs to happen to avoid triggering the TSA process. It might be argued, as Labour did in 2009, that when an NHS trust fails, there needs to be a fast way of making decisions about its future. Those decisions might have knock-on effects, but that should not mean that one trust’s failure triggers a wholesale re-engineering of local health services without proper checks and balances and accountability. Decisions about local health services should be taken by clinical commissioning groups.
If I may develop my point, I shall be happy to give way to the right hon. Gentleman.
The first principle is that, in the absence of failure in the arrangements set up by local commissioners, decisions about what services should be provided at an NHS trust or an NHS foundation trust should be taken by local commissioners working within their local health economies, and should not be foisted on the local NHS from outside. This autonomy principle is reflected in the absence of any general right for the Secretary of State or NHS England to direct local commissioners about the discharge of their functions. The previous position under the Labour Government was that the Secretary of State could issue directions to primary care trusts. We did not replicate that in the 2012 Act.
The right hon. Gentleman has made an outstanding contribution to proceedings over the past couple of days and I pay tribute to him for that. He was centrally involved in the development of coalition health policy after the last election. Does he agree with us that clause 119 represents a major departure from some of the statements that were being made by him and by others in this House when the Health and Social Care Act was going through?
I am grateful for that intervention. As I develop my argument, I think the right hon. Gentleman will hear where I sit on the spectrum of viewpoints. He may be interested in what I am about to say.
The second principle is that commissioners who have successfully managed the quality and demand in their area should not have decision making taken away from them. Decision making can be removed from the trusts that are failing, and this may mean that commissioners of such bodies have to accept unwelcome changes. But local decision making should remain in place where a local commissioner and provider are working successfully together. Thus the first purpose of my new clause is to seek to place with the commissioners of services at NHS foundation trusts and NHS trusts that are not in special administration the same decision-making powers as are given to commissioners of services of NHS trusts that have been found to fail and are in special administration.
At present the Bill creates two classes of commissioner. Where there is a trust in special administration, the clause provides that commissioners of services at that trust are able to define the services that the failing trust should continue to provide. The commissioners are thus entitled to ring-fence certain services that they feel must be preserved for the benefit of local patients. They are, in effect, given a veto on the extent of changes that can be made to a troubled trust because of the statutory objectives set for the administrator. The commissioners are thus able to act to preserve local services.
However, the present text of section 65DA does not give the same rights to the commissioners of adjoining trusts. They are relegated to second-class status. Clause 119 as drafted envisages that a special administrator is entitled to make recommendations for changes at trusts other than the trust in special administration which are not approved by local commissioners. In its present form clause 119 does not provide that the commissioners of the services at trusts other than the trust in special administration enjoy the same veto over the extent of any changes as the commissioners of a trust in special administration. There is a fundamental lack of parity of esteem between the different organisations and the different commissioners in a locality. It is that inequality that I am seeking to change.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. Will he explain to me whether, if his new clause had been on the statute book at the time of the south London TSA process, only Lewisham clinical commissioning group would have had a veto over services at Lewisham hospital that it was proposed to change, or whether commissioners of services at Lewisham hospital, such as Greenwich, Bexley or Southwark CCGs, would also have had such a veto? Exactly who is he talking about?
What I am saying is that in a situation where trusts that are not themselves in special administration are being brought into the process, the commissioners of those trusts should be given equal standing in the process. At present they are not given the same standing as the commissioner of the failing service. The commissioner of the failing service is given a greater role in determining the outcome of the process. I want to ensure that if we use this process in future, in the way the Government intend, there is a parity of esteem between all commissioners, representing the clinical interests in the area and the interests of patients.
Why therefore should responsible commissioners who have worked successfully with their local NHS trusts to produce a sustainable set of NHS services be prejudiced by the failure of a commissioner who has not secured such an outcome? Clause 119 risks penalising responsible co-operation between commissioners and providers, and it gives a veto to the potentially irresponsible. My new clause removes that inequality by providing that commissioners of services at an NHS trust that is affected by any proposed changes should be placed in the same position as the commissioner of those services covered by the administration process.
Secondly, my new clause makes it clear that, if the special administrator issues a final report recommending changes at a trust that is not in special administration, the decision makers to decide whether those changes ought to be accepted should be the commissioners of services at the successful trust and not the trust special administrator, the Secretary of State or Monitor. Clause 119 envisages that the TSA can recommend changes at an NHS foundation trust which is not in special administration, but fails to provide any mechanism to put those changes into effect. It follows that the recommendation from the TSA is left hanging in the air. The TSA cannot impose decisions on a reluctant CCG, because the Secretary of State is unable to direct CCGs and cannot, through Monitor, require changes to the services by the foundation trusts.
When making submissions to the Court of Appeal in the Lewisham case, leading counsel for the Government accepted that chapter 5A of the Health Act 2009 was a purely procedural statute. Chapter 5A does not provide any additional powers for the Secretary of State or Monitor. It simply defines the process that must be followed before existing powers may be exercised. The TSA takes over the role of the board of the trust in administration, so that it can make decisions about that organisation. The Secretary of State and Monitor have powers to dissolve NHS bodies, but the TSA does not have a role with regard to any trust that it is not administering. There is therefore a fundamental problem with clause 119 in that particular case, and that is what my new clause attempts to address.
I am proposing a new clause that would make it clear that a TSA report is to be provided to commissioners of services at any affected trust who are the decision makers as to whether they wish to accept or reject the recommendations. They are the relevant decision makers —in other words, the local commissioners.
I will conclude, because I want to ensure that there is time for other people to speak. I am sure that the hon. Lady will make a speech. If she comments on my remarks, she might be gracious enough to allow me to intervene to clarify if she is still unclear.
Obviously, if the local commissioners decide that they are minded to accept recommendations, local people who use services provided by trusts that are not deemed to be failing should not have changes foisted on them without proper consultation.
In conclusion, I am grateful to the Government for what they have already done by including Healthwatch and local authorities as consultees in the process, but we need to go further to ensure that all the commissioners who we in this House, under the 2012 Act, said should be the primary decision makers in arranging health care should be treated the same and have a genuine say in any trust special administration process. That is an essential safeguard, but it is not clear at the moment; it needs to be clear in the future, so that we ensure that this process works in the interests of patients and the local public.
I want to do two things in my contribution: first, to speak in support of amendment 30, which would delete clause 119; and, secondly, to make a few comments on new clause 16, which was tabled by Paul Burstow. I would be content to support the right hon. Gentleman’s new clause, but I have some reservations and some questions that I would like his assistance in answering.
I do not want to rehearse everything that has been said about the case of Lewisham and the trust special administration process that took place in south London. My hon. Friend Jim Dowd summed up well the feelings of frustration and anger that existed in Lewisham at the time. Like him, I do not wish to inflict that process on other communities across the country.
I concur with everything the shadow Secretary of State said about the TSA regime being the wrong starting point for a discussion of how and where local health services are provided. Such a regime starts with the need to save money, and all the members of the public I spoke to saw through it straight away. They asked, “Why on earth is this not driven by what is in the best interests of people’s health, as opposed to having the starting point of needing to save money?” Such an approach breeds cynicism and scepticism among the public from the very outset.
In my experience, the TSA process also leads to rushed and shoddy work being done by those who are carrying it out. As I said on Second Reading—this is worth repeating—in Lewisham the special administrator suggested that his proposed changes to the whole health economy of south-east London would cost £266 million and would take three years to implement. His projections were shown to be catastrophically wrong: it would cost twice as much and take twice as long.
The process and the consultation were atrocious. I stood outside a public meeting where 100 people were trying to get into a packed hall in which there were already 300 people. The police had to be called to escort the trust administrator into the room.
The experiences in Stafford and in Lewisham have probably been very similar. Multiple public meetings were run in a chaotic and haphazard fashion, and if I had not intervened in this particular meeting in Catford to try to calm the audience down and enable them to ask questions, I am not sure whether it would have been able to proceed.
We have heard about the quality of the consultation in Lewisham. The fact that the online consultation did not include a direct question about the closure of accident and emergency services and maternity services at Lewisham hospital beggars belief. My constituents were asked whether they agreed that acute services should be consolidated on four instead of five sites in south-east London. It is no wonder they came to me asking, “Where is the question about Lewisham A and E?” As my right hon. Friend Dame Joan Ruddock said, the consultation contained no direct question about the sale of two thirds of the land. There was a question about the sale of land at the hospitals that were placed in administration, but there was no such question about Lewisham hospital. We must be under no illusion that if clause 119 had been on the statute book at the time the administrator made recommendations about Lewisham hospital, its full A and E, its full maternity service and its excellent paediatric unit would now be closing.
Many people have said to me that I am somehow against change in the NHS, but nothing could be further from the truth. We have already heard about the successful changes to stroke care in the capital. They did not come about overnight, or over 45 nights or 75 nights; they came about as a result of clear and calm consultation and communication with residents. They came about as a result of clinicians, not accountants, being in the driving seat. The public rightly care about their NHS and the local health services to which they have access. As I said on Second Reading, that is because people experience the best and the worst moment of their lives in our hospitals. It is right that they have their say in a process that is fit for purpose, but an extended and augmented TSA process, which the Government propose through clause 119, is not the right way to take decisions of such significance and which excite such public interest.
The Government have tried to spin clause 119 as some sort of clarification of existing policy. That is nonsense. It is a direct result of the Lewisham hospital case that was heard in the courts. We know that the previous Government produced guidance that said that the TSA regime should not be used as a back-door approach to reconfiguration. This is a fundamental change in policy. It removes the legal protection that currently exists for successful hospitals located adjacent to failing hospitals that have been placed into administration.
The Government also claim that such a process would be used only in exceptional circumstances, but how do we know how often it will be used in future? I press the Minister to respond to the point made by the shadow Health Secretary about whether he has had any discussions with his officials about other hospital trusts being placed into administration and about applying the unsustainable provider regime elsewhere.
Let me place it on the record that, as far as I am aware, there have been no discussions involving either me or my ministerial colleagues about applying the TSA regime elsewhere.
That is useful. I am sure that Members are grateful to hear that from the Minister, but we know that there are many trusts in serious financial difficulties. Given the huge pressures on the NHS at the moment, this regime could be applied in many more places in the future. The truth of the matter is that the TSA regime will be used as a steamroller to force through the closure and downgrading of hospital services with limited public consultation, using a process that is set up in a way that creates public scepticism and mistrust from the word go.
The Government want to change the law to allow them to do elsewhere what the courts told them they could not do in Lewisham. As I have said already,
I would not want to inflict that chaos on anyone else. It damages trust not only in NHS leaders who are meant to be leading change but in our democracy.
I wish to say a few words about new clause 16. As I have already said, I will vote for the new clause if the right hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam pushes it to a vote this evening, because it offers a limited improvement on clause 119. None the less, it raises its own set of questions. The new clause leaves clause 119 in the Bill, so it still allows an administrator appointed to a failing hospital trust to make recommendations about services provided at successful neighbouring hospitals, which are not part of the trust to which the administrator has been appointed.
As I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman’s new clause would give power to the commissioners of such services at the affected hospital outside the failing trust to have some sort of veto over whether the recommendations go any further. It suggests that if the commissioners of services at the affected hospital, such as Lewisham, agree with the changes being proposed, full public and patient consultation would kick in, consistent with the normal levels of communication and engagement that are required in full-service reconfigurations. If the local commissioners disagree with the recommendations, they can, if I understand his new clause correctly, call the process to a complete halt. I can see why that has some attractions, because it seems to provide some kind of brake on the all-encompassing powers of an administrator, and for that reason I am content to support it. However, it does not provide an entirely coherent solution to the problem that lies at the heart of clause 119.
The hon. Lady is helpfully setting out her concerns and her support for the new clause. The first proposition must be that we should never even get to that stage, so we need to have much better processes in place beforehand, and I hope that we will hear something about that from the Minister. More importantly, the commissioners, all of whom have a stake in a local health economy—the different trusts—ought to be around the table to sign off on what a TSA will actually do.
I am sorry to be down in the detail of the new clause, but I think that it is very important, not least because many of us have received hundreds of e-mails about this. We need clarity on which commissioners are being given an effective power of veto by the new clause. Is it just the primary commissioner of services at a hospital, or does it go wider than that? To take the Lewisham example, it is not clear whether the power of veto would be given only to Lewisham CCG or also to the commissioners of services at Lewisham hospital, such as Greenwich or Bexley CCGs.
It is also not clear from new clause 16 whether there is a definite guarantee that full consultation would kick in if commissioners agreed to the recommendations of the TSA, because with reference to commissioners it includes the words
“if they are so minded”.
It is not clear what would happen if they were not so minded. Where is the redress for the public in that?
Another concern about new clause 16 is that if commissioners of services at a trust outside the failing trust disagree with the TSA’s proposals, potentially millions could have been spent bringing in the administrator and the management consultants and working up a whole series of proposals, but it could then be brought to a halt by a group of commissioners. I cannot help but question whether it would not be better either to apply the TSA regime to one individual trust or to go through a proper reconfiguration process, with all the safeguards that would include.
I am also intrigued as to why the right hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam tabled new clause 16 at this time. It is quite detailed, and given that he was a member of the Public Bill Committee, it might have been wise to introduce it in Committee and thrash out the detail there. I would like to add that he has always struck me as a man of principle. He has a deep understanding of how the NHS works and, I believe, a deep commitment to tackling the care crisis we face. However, tabling the new clause as some kind of alternative to voting against clause 119 seems to me to be tinkering at the edges. What we really need to do is vote to remove that clause from the Bill, because it poses a significant danger to hospitals across the country.
I am conscious that I have spoken for a long time, so I will say just a few words in conclusion. We know that the Conservatives stated in their manifesto that they would stop the forced closure of A and E departments and maternity wards. We know that in the coalition agreement both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives talked about stopping the centrally dictated closure of A and E departments and maternity wards. The truth is that neither the Lib Dems nor the Conservatives are stopping these closures; instead, they are legislating for them. They are paving the way for a wholesale programme of hospital closures and downgrades. We might stop them if we vote for new clause 16, but for me “might” is not good enough. In my view, amendment 30, which would delete clause 119, is our best hope for putting the Lewisham debacle behind us and providing the public with a fair and transparent means of making decisions about the public service that matters most to people—the NHS.
I want briefly to explain why I intend to support clause 119 in the Lobby this evening and to say that I have some sympathy with the points that my right hon. Friend Paul Burstow made about new clause 16. I hope that the Minister will address his specific points about the importance of equivalence between the commissioners of unaffected hospitals and the commissioners of key services. This is not about a veto, I suggest to Heidi Alexander; it is about the right of commissioners out of area to safeguard essential services in a parallel way to commissioners in the core area of the affected trust that is subject to the trust special administrator regime.
The core points made about the consequences when a trust special administrator is appointed are important, although, with respect to other Members, we must be clear that those consequences are very limited. We are talking about the consequences of appointing a TSA to a trust that is financially unsustainable. We are all agreed that if the trust is not financially unsustainable, a TSA will not be appointed. We all agree that reconfiguration is necessary. Of course it is better done in consultation with local communities and professional groups and through the normal reconfiguration process; everyone agrees about that. The question before the House in relation to clause 119 is what happens if those preferred options fail, the trust becomes financially unsustainable, and a TSA is appointed. It is a question of whether the TSA, in that narrow set of circumstances occurring twice in five years, is required to think only about the institution in isolation or should be looking at the interests of patients as a whole in the context of the health economy in the immediate and surrounding areas.
I hold the Chairman of the Select Committee in high regard for his expertise. Let me point out, though, that he analyses this on the basis of two cases in five years, but in fact the situation has changed rather dramatically. The information presented to our Committee is that about a third of NHS trusts are predicting deficits, and, as we heard earlier, 32 are in severe financial difficulty. Those may not be the exceptional circumstances that the Minister would have us believe, and that should be a cause for concern for Members on both sides of the House.
Saying that a trust is in deficit is not the same as saying that it is heading into administration. It lies within the power of the commissioners and the trust management regime to avoid administration, which everyone in the House agrees is the preferred outcome. Indeed, it is striking that each of the Members from Lewisham and from Staffordshire identified the difficulties that the TSA regime creates and the difficult circumstances that arise when a TSA is appointed. Some Labour Members have suggested that this is a back-door means of driving change without consultation by appointing TSAs to trusts all around the country. If I thought that that was anywhere near to being anybody’s intention, I would oppose clause 119. However, the important point about clause 119 is that if it were the Government’s intention, which I do not remotely believe that it is, they could pursue that policy whichever way the Division goes.
The point about clause 119 is that it raises an extremely narrow question: should the TSA take into consideration only the institution that has been demonstrated historically to be unsustainable, or should the TSA look outside that immediate health economy for solutions that will better serve the needs of patients in that area? It seems to me that we need only pose the question in that precise and, I believe, accurate way for it to be seen to be a rhetorical question.
Rather than looking at administrators and what can be done in the event of a disaster, let us look at Dorset county hospital as a classic case of what to do. It was in trouble and has been turned around, and local clinicians and managers are now talking to the GPs in Weymouth. They are now thinking—don’t laugh—of integrating their services. Well, whoopee doopee, this is huge common sense: not an administrator in sight and, more to the point, not a politician in sight either.
I do not always agree with every word my hon. Friend says, but I agree with everything he said in that intervention, so I am delighted that I gave way to him. His argument is that commissioners and the trust management should get ahead of the trust administrator. Nobody should sit around waiting for an administrator to be appointed; the objective should be to avoid trust administration along precisely the lines identified by my hon. Friend.
I want to make a few points in support of amendment 30, which would delete clause 119 on the basis that the TSA was never designed to deal with reconfigurations across an entire region. Despite the assurances given by Mr Dorrell and Government Front Benchers, the potential remains for this mechanism to be used as a back-door route to making changes and closures at hospitals.
I also declare my support for new clause 16. However, although it would ameliorate the worst parts of clause 119 by ensuring that local commissioners in non-failing areas had a veto over any decisions affecting their trust, it is not, as colleagues have said, a perfect solution.
Clause 19—or, as 38 Degrees and other campaigning groups refer to it, the hospital closure clause—should not stand part of the Bill. I had the honour to serve on the Bill Committee for what is now the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and I attended 39 out of 40 sittings. I missed one because I attended a Health Committee sitting at which the then Health Secretary was giving evidence about NHS England, which was previously called the NHS Commissioning Board, and I did not want to miss that.
I sat through that Bill Committee and listened to the Government’s reasons for their reorganisation. We were told that it would deliver a decentralised service and put power in the hands of clinicians. To be frank, clause 119 makes a mockery of that claim. Far from delivering a decentralised service that puts power in the hands of clinicians, the Secretary of State seems to be seeking to take power away from GPs and local communities in order to further reconfigure the NHS for purely financial reasons.
To suggest that the trust special administrator regime is a natural extension of the existing legislation is a gross distortion. The TSA process was never intended to be used as a back-door way to make unpopular reconfigurations. Potentially, clause 119 could take control of every NHS trust and foundation trust away from the public, leaving no hospital bed in the country safe. It should not stand part of the Bill.
If the Bill is enacted, clause 119 will mean that the NHS in England will face further wholesale, top-down reorganisations. The clause could be used as a method to achieve that. I do not think that anyone in this House wishes that to happen. I am sure that, in their hearts, some Government Members do not want that, and certainly no one in the country voted for it. Our problem is that there would be virtually no accountability to local people.
The successful legal challenge brought by the London borough of Lewisham and the Save Lewisham Hospital umbrella campaign—I pay tribute to their efforts, which have brought about this situation—showed conclusively that the Secretary of State did not have the power to axe Lewisham’s accident and emergency and maternity wards as a solution to problems in the neighbouring South London Healthcare NHS Trust.
Clause 119 is designed to allow the Secretary of State to do what he failed to do in Lewisham—to close down thriving and financially sustainable hospitals on a whim, without full and proper consultation. To suggest, as was said in Committee, that a tokenistic meeting with a local authority overview and scrutiny committee would assuage public concerns does not hold water. We must rebuild trust: we need full and proper consultation with patients and the public, and we need agreements with clinical commissioning groups. I am somewhat surprised at the willingness of Government Members, who have championed the cause of GP-led commissioning, to subvert the role of CCGs in that respect.
As a fellow member of the Health and Social Care Bill Committee, does my hon. Friend remember that we warned the Government that although there were clearly problems with strategic health authorities, those bodies could take a wider view of the health economy, and that having very new, young and small clinical commissioning groups that are all separate meant that it would be very hard to take such wider views? Does he remember that we warned the Government in those debates, and does he agree that they are doing this top-down reorganisation now precisely because there is no mechanism for delivering wider health views?
I do remember those debates, some of which were very long and acrimonious. I still have the scars on my back. They are a badge of honour, and I am proud to have been in the trenches with hon. Members fighting to preserve our NHS and to save it from the Trojan horse of privatisation.
To return to the matter in hand, the trust special administration process will bring drastic changes to hospital configurations. It represents a move away from the principle of reconfiguration of services on the basis of clinical need in favour of doing so solely on the basis of financial considerations. The justification process starts with the need to save money.
There have been attempts to reassure hon. Members and the general public that the trust special administration process would be enacted only in exceptional circumstances. As in our earlier exchanges about clause 119, hon. Members need to be alive to the situation confronting many NHS trusts, including the fact that about 30 trusts have been identified as being in particular financial difficulties. Those circumstances are not exceptional: come the end of the year and next year, there is a very clear and present danger that they will be not exceptional but normal.
In this situation, the NHS and foundation trusts are struggling, for a variety of reasons, to do more with less. I accept that the burden of the private finance initiative is one of those reasons, but there are others. There have been problems where walk-in treatment centres have closed. NHS spending has fallen in real terms. Almost a third of NHS trusts in England now forecast a deficit at the end of the financial year. There is growing pessimism about the financial health of the NHS, and figures suggest that the number of trusts undergoing the trust special administration regime will grow. As I have said, some 30 trusts have been identified as at risk of closure were clause 119 to be enacted as part of the Bill. Under this Government, it seems that the exceptional circumstances that would trigger the trust special administration process would no longer be exceptional.
I advise hon. Members who want to avoid soon having to take part in campaigns to save accident and emergency or maternity wards in their own constituencies —as has been done by my right hon. Friend Dame Joan Ruddock, my hon. Friends the Members for Lewisham West and Penge (Jim Dowd) and for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander), and Jeremy Lefroy—to support Labour’s amendment 30.
Clause 119 will permit the Secretary of State, on the recommendation of a trust special administrator, to take actions against hospitals that lie outside the initial scope of the administrator’s investigation. Any organisation that neighbours a trust that is in financial distress, regardless of how popular, successful or robust its services are or how financially viable it is, could be downgraded or closed. The whole House—not just Opposition Members, but Government Members—should be concerned about the implications of the clause.
I have no doubt that, as was outlined by the Chair of the Health Committee, there are cases in which changes are needed in the local health economy that extend beyond the trust that is failing. The fundamental problem is that clause 119 seeks to change the trust special administration process in a way that was never intended. It has the potential radically to change the configuration of our NHS services. When hospitals are identified as being no longer viable, it risks being used as a Trojan horse to privatise our hospitals. [Hon. Members: “Oh!”] There is a groan from Government Members, but one of them suggested a merger between two hospitals in or nearby his constituency in Devon. There are practical issues to consider. We saw what happened in Bournemouth and Poole, where a sensible merger proposal was resisted on the grounds that it was anti-competitive.
Given that clause 119 is a dramatic extension of the Secretary of State’s powers, as my hon. Friend is rightly saying, does he agree that it is astonishing that the Secretary of State is not in the House this afternoon to make the case in person, to ask for the powers and to justify the idea that we should entrust the future of our hospitals to him?
I am absolutely amazed. I share my right hon. Friend’s incredulity that the Secretary of State is not here. In my view, clause 119 is one power too many for a Secretary of State who apparently believes the NHS to be a 60-year-old mistake. [Interruption.] That is a direct quotation from the Secretary of State before he took office.
The Secretary of State’s increased power and Monitor’s expanded role directly contradict the Government’s earlier promise that local commissioners would no longer be subject to central diktat. That represents a reversal of the vision that was presented during the consideration of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Clause 119 supports none of the preconditions for a legitimate reorganisation of a local health economy and will allow trust special administrators to overrule any concerned parties.
If clause 119 becomes law, the Secretary of State will be granted the power to issue directions to require foundation trusts and clinical commissioning groups to take steps that they do not want to take. Any Member who wants to prevent the Secretary of State’s axe from falling arbitrarily on their own hospitals without clinical justification should seek to remove the clause from the Bill. I therefore urge right hon. and hon. Members to support Labour’s amendment 30 and new clause 16, which is a compromise measure to ameliorate the worst aspects of clause 119.
I have listened with quiet astonishment as Opposition Members have suggested that the NHS previously offered meaningful accountability and public control.
In the manner in which Andy Burnham spoke to amendment 30, he viciously punched a raw and delicate bruise in Wycombe. As I indicated in my intervention, it was under the last Government that we lost A and E services, maternity services and paediatrics. Years later, all that people want is to have those services back. They want an emergency unit that is capable of accepting whoever turns up. To use the jargon, they want the treatment of undifferentiated emergency patients. The NHS should not be offering constant excuses for why that cannot be provided. God knows, we pay enough in tax and in salaries that people ought to be creative enough to figure out how to offer the treatment of undifferentiated emergency patients at local hospitals like the one in Wycombe. There is a proposal to do so, which I will return to another day,
I have found myself listening to some sort of exposition of a democratic utopia that has never existed. When considering how this has been positioned—the idea that it is about reconfiguration rather than urgent procedures when a trust is in extreme difficulty—will the Minister reassure me that the Government did not establish clinical commissioning groups and health and wellbeing boards, and the rest, just so that they could use this clause and power to override everything else they have put in place?
I am happy to give my hon. Friend that reassurance. We believe in locally led commissioning and in listening to patients locally. That is what devising services locally is about. This clause is not to be conflated with normal procedures for designing and arranging local hospital services. I hope that that reassures my hon. Friend and other hon. Members.
I am extremely grateful to the Minister for that reassurance because in my constituency there is really only one story: the loss of services, and, because of the way the clause has been presented by Labour Members, people are worried about that.
It has been said that these hospitals are categorically different because they exist in a broader health economy, but that is not why they are different. Any business exists as part of a wider economy with dependencies and so on—Jim Dowd suggested the example of Comet versus Currys. In private enterprise, if the administrator turned up and shut down our competitors when we failed, it would obviously be absurd, but the truth is that both sides of the House have made a positive decision to use the techniques of state socialism to provide health care. That choice has consequences, one of which is this clause.
It will come as no surprise that I support the proposal to remove clause 119 from the Bill. Of all reforms in the Bill, this clause has attracted the most attention from my constituents. They recognise it for what it is—a frightening power grab by central Government that will put services across the whole country at risk from the Secretary of State. It is a cynical move from the Government, who in their wildly unpopular top-down reorganisation of our beloved NHS claimed that they wanted to put more power in the hands of doctors. Now they seek to give sweeping new powers to the Secretary of State.
It is of course true that some NHS trusts and foundation trusts find themselves in tough financial situations, and in those difficult situations decisions will have to be made so that services continue to operate. That is what the TSA regime was set up to do, and it is an appropriate process for dealing with the difficulties within a trust. It is true that trusts do not operate in complete isolation, but the TSA is already required to act with the interests of the wider health service in mind.
My hon. Friend is right when she says that the Secretary of State wants the power to privatise—I will be brutal about it—NHS services. We must recall—this is why we cannot believe the Minister or the Secretary of State—that before and during the general election, the Prime Minister said that there would be no top-down reorganisation of the national health service—[Interruption.]
Order. With the hon. Gentleman facing that way I could not hear a word he had to say. I am sure it was a very short intervention that I would love to hear. Will he repeat the question?
I am sure my hon. Friend will agree that the changes the Government want to make are in order to privatise the national health service through the back door. That is why the Secretary of State wants that power. Equally, we cannot believe the Secretary of State because, during the general election, the Prime Minister said that there would be no major changes to the national health service, and no top-down reorganisation. Why should we believe this lot now?
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend.
TSAs can consider the impact on neighbouring authorities when making their recommendations, but they cannot and should not reconfigure services in well-performing trusts. Well-run trusts can and do collaborate with their neighbours, and play a role in reconfiguring services to help to achieve financial stability, but that must be voluntary. It is wrong for the Government to act through TSAs to reconfigure services in well-run trusts, and to do so against the wishes of local people and clinicians. It is also wrong that the opinions of health care professionals should be overruled by financial concerns, especially when the decisions being made affect trusts that are not at financial risk. That undermines the ability of health care professionals to act in the interests of their public.
The Government’s defence of the proposal is that clause 119 is a clarification of existing law, and yet the amendment was tabled in the other place while the Government’s appeal over the downgrading of services at Lewisham was still being considered. Surely it is the role of the courts to interpret and therefore clarify the law. It is more likely that the Government anticipated that their appeal would be rejected, as it was, and acted to expand the powers of TSAs so that reconfigurations such as that proposed for Lewisham could go ahead in future. I want to be clear: when any Government amends legislation so that it can be interpreted differently in the courts, they are not clarifying things but changing them.
I take the hon. Lady’s general point and understand why she is making it, but yesterday, we debated new clause 11, which would have made clear a mistake that hon. Members on both sides of the House believe the courts made on the applicability of human rights legislation to social care that is publicly provided within private institutions. In that instance, we were not changing the law, but trying to ensure that the courts interpreted it correctly in the first place. There are instances when we do that.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, but I do not believe it applies to clause 119.
My constituents are not especially concerned by the technicalities of legislation. The letters and e-mails I receive show concern with the practicalities of clause 119. People tell me that they fear for local services because, as more trusts fall into financial difficulties—more than 30 are reported to be in serious danger of doing so—the Secretary of State’s power will spread over a wide region. Perhaps the trusts that those people or their relatives use will not have a TSA appointed, but it is likely that services in their area will collaborate with trusts that do have one appointed. That makes them a target.
If the heroic efforts of the people of Lewisham and my hon. Friends are anything to go by, public concern will quickly turn to public outrage and protest if clause 119 makes it to the statute book. Lewisham has shown the Government the strength of opposition they can expect when they attempt to force unpopular reconfigurations on local communities. It is difficult to understand why they propose using that model throughout the country, but it appears that that is their intention.
I am concerned that, by taking that approach and using the TSA regime for a purpose for which it was never intended, the Government will make it more difficult to have a level-headed discussion on meeting financial challenges. We need a mature debate on how to adapt services to improve sustainability, but clause 119 will lead to pitched battles up and down the country over the closure of individual departments. The clause has attracted more controversy than any other in the Bill, and with good reason. It ignores the will of clinicians and the communities they serve. It puts at risk services in every corner of the UK. The Government must change course now.
I shall make a short contribution on clause 119. I agree with the principle behind the clause and the Bill, but we must ensure that the NHS can operate properly and efficiently, and provide our constituents with the care they deserve. My hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State know very well of the review in Worcestershire in the past two years. My hospital—the Alexandra—has been in the spotlight. We have fought long and hard to retain services locally. I pay tribute to the tireless campaigners who, like me, are desperate to keep our services. Finally, we have seen a clinical solution to the problem. We all welcome that in Redditch, but it is not the end of the story—I wish it were.
We now have to wait to see if the clinical solution is affordable. If it is not, would our trust be put into administration? Our trust owes £10 million today and is forecast to owe £12 million by the end of the financial year. The people of Redditch are concerned about the future of our hospital. I ask the Minister to allay their fears today and to make it clear that Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is not on his radar and that the Alexandra hospital is safe in his hands and will continue to be so.
I know that my hon. Friend has campaigned tirelessly for her local trust and I can reassure her that there are no plans for the TSA to have any involvement in the issues that she has mentioned locally. It would be wrong and irresponsible for people to conflate those issues. There are local processes in place and they will continue.
One of the big successes is the creation of local commissioners. In my patch, Jonathan Wells has continually stood up for the people of Redditch in this reorganisation. Will the Minister clarify how much involvement the commissioners would have in any administration case?
Forty days is a short time indeed. As I said earlier, I agree with the principle, but I do not think that it has been thought through enough. No one would want an unsafe hospital in their patch, but we all want an NHS that treats our constituents at a local level if possible. The Minister has allayed some of my fears, and I thank him for that, but there is a great deal of concern in my constituency.
I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss amendment 30 and new clause 16. I realise that it will come as a disappointment to Government Members but I will support amendment 30 and new clause 16. Let me explain why, and I hope that I can avoid drifting into the scaremongering that has been associated with this issue.
For me, the concern has always been about public trust in reconfigurations. As many hon. Members will know, I have been through 10 years of discussions and consultations on reconfigurations. That first started under the then Labour Government, and I agree with my hon. Friend Steve Baker, who suggested that there was a wonderful alliance of faith and trust professed by the Opposition in the effectiveness of consultations. For the record, we had the most shameful consultations at the beginning of the process on Chase Farm, and not much changed after the change of Government in 2010.
To be clear, I think these consultations are a fiction and sham that do not make any difference to the progress of events in the NHS. In fact, they cruelly mislead the public into thinking that they have any say at all.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s intervention and I understand where he is coming from. Certainly in the early days under the tenure of the predecessor of the shadow Health Secretary, we were presented with consultations that listed 10 options for the reconfiguration of Chase Farm, one of which included retaining the A and E services. It disappeared from the list before anyone had had a chance to consult. A selected group of stakeholders was then invited to a meeting that, funnily enough, was not held in Enfield or Barnet. It was held in central London during working hours, meaning that very few people could attend—certainly not the public. I share the shadow Health Secretary’s view that that consultation was utterly flawed and it led to the decision to downgrade my hospital being made by his predecessor in 2008. Hopes were raised with the moratorium that was introduced by the coalition Government, but they were then sorely dashed. I have described my displeasure and the distress of my constituents who had their hopes raised in that shameful episode, the likes of which litter the history of Chase Farm over the past 10 years.
In Swanage, we too had a consultation that was a disaster. It was binned, thank God, but another one has been started. It is taking a year, if hon. Members can believe it—a year of waiting, cost, experts and so on. This is another problem with the NHS: unfortunately, people do not trust consultations and when they happen they cost a fortune.
And the answer is not just with consultations. The issue facing us today, and why I cannot support clause 119, is simply this: the argument on reconfigurations, with the greatest respect to all hon. Members, will not be won by politicians or even by senior managers in the NHS. There has to be a clinically led argument from GPs upwards throughout the acute sector. For many, many years they have not made the case. The process has been littered with broken promises over the years, regardless of the good intentions of politicians. I can do nothing tonight that would suggest a further breach of trust by weakening the power of consultation, even though I accept that consultation has not had its finest hour—or, in my case, its finest 10 years.
I have faith that the voice of the British public, and the intent behind the Health and Social Care Act 2012 in particular, on which I was engaged over many weeks, is to bring clinical decision making to the front line and to empower local people, local authorities and patients further. That has been a great step. The second reason why I find it difficult to run with clause 119, and why I support the amendment tabled by Paul Burstow, is that he recognises the need to extend the consultation to all key stakeholders, not least to those in trusts that could be affected through no fault of their own, to extend their powers as well. That went to the heart of the 2012 Act. Indeed, we are blessed with two former Ministers in the Chamber, with whom I spent many happy hours on those Benches—it was not acrimonious at all. This was a core principle behind what we were trying to do.
Let us deal with the exceptional cases. I accept entirely that there is no master plan to run through configurations on the basis of the proposed changes, but I cannot ignore the fact that the proposed legislation we are being asked to approve allows for changes to be made in circumstances that would leave a democratic deficit and subjugate clinical judgment because of a stressful financial situation.
Where is the limit? That is what worries me. It is like pouring water on a tile—one cannot stop it. It might go much further than the adjacent trust area; it could go anywhere.
Yes, indeed. Again, I am trying to be as balanced as I can. I recognise that no single institution can stand in isolation, and I think that that is broadly accepted. However, to make decisions within 40 days on institutions, when we do not know which institutions will be affected or how they will be affected, is demanding too much of a service that is so valued by the public.
Does my hon. Friend accept that there are some extremely important issues that cannot be resolved in 40 days, or even 400 days? For instance, the royal colleges are prescribing services that require more and more consultants to run rotas, which means that in district general hospitals it becomes even less possible to provide these kinds of services. These things are taken out of the hands even of politicians.
Indeed. My hon. Friend makes his point very well and I bow to his superior judgment.
I am also concerned about a point that was raised earlier. As everyone knows, I have absolutely no clinical or medical background, and it has always come as a surprise to me that I have spent so much of my time in the Chamber talking about these subjects. In business, there is a fairly simple calculation that assesses the solvency of a business; the strict definition is if someone is not able to meet their liabilities or knows that they are not able to do so in the short term, they are considered insolvent. They then go into administration and the processes kick in.
We are talking about a very different picture here in which a judgement has to be made about institutions that may or may not be considered unfit to continue. Under those circumstances—however much I accept that there are good intentions and not the devious plots that are being suggested—it means that much is left open to doubt. Therefore, it is with a very heavy heart that I will be on the other side when we go into the Lobby—when I have worked out which side that is. But I do so based on my 10 years of experience of what has been a very difficult exercise in my constituency.
I listened with great interest to my hon. Friend Nick de Bois but I will be supporting the Government 100% tonight because I have great confidence in what the Government have achieved with the NHS. I say that because I have seen the alternative; I have seen what has happened to the NHS when it is run by Labour, because that is the problem that I and many of my constituents face at the moment in Wales.
My right hon. Friend Paul Burstow came forward earlier with a petition from the left-wing pressure group 38 Degrees. Health campaigners today have been talking today about the amount of salt that we take but one has to take dangerously large pinches of salt with anything that comes out of that organisation. These people purport to be a happy-go-lucky students. They are always on first name terms; Ben and Fred and Rebecca and Sarah and the rest of it. The reality is that it is a hard-nosed left-wing Labour-supporting organisation with links to some very wealthy upper middle-class socialists, despite the pretence that it likes to give out.
It is 38 Degrees who were coming out with all sorts of hysterical scare stories a few years ago about how the Government were going to privatise the NHS. It took out adverts in newspapers, scaring people witless that that was going to happen. Of course the organisation has forgotten all about it now because there was never any intention to do that. We will never privatise the NHS because we believe in public services in this party. A couple of months ago, 38 Degrees came out with more scare stories about how it was going to be gagged because of another piece of legislation that the Government were putting through to bring about fairness in elections. It said that we would never hear from it again, and yet here we are a few months later with yet another host of terrible stories, scaring members of the public quite unnecessarily. I do not think that we have to take any lessons from 38 Degrees, nor hear any more about their petition.
I am backing the Government tonight because I know that the Secretary of State has done an enormous amount to drive up standards in the NHS even as they fall in Wales. It is this Secretary of State who has presided over falls in waiting lists to 18 weeks in England. People are lucky in Wales if they can get to the target of 36 weeks. There has been an increase in funding when it has been cut in Wales and there is much better access to cancer drugs in England than we have in Wales.
New clause 16 refers to the need to confer with members of neighbouring boards. We have health boards, not trusts, in Wales. I hope the Secretary of State will confer with the boards in Wales about these changes. The only criticism that I have of the Government is that they have been so successful in improving the NHS in England that large numbers of people now contact me every single day, in Wales and in my constituency, asking for the right to be treated by the NHS run by the coalition Government and not by the NHS run by the socialists in Wales.
I ask the Minister and Opposition members to look at an article in the Western Mail today by a woman called Marianna Robinson who has spoken about the difficulty she has had in trying to get treatment and how desperately she wants to be treated in Bristol. There is a place for her in Bristol but she is not allowed to have it. I ask Ministers, and perhaps Opposition Members, to think about what we are doing here. I would like to see patients in Wales who wish to be treated in England being allowed to go to England and get treatment, with the money then being taken off the block grant to the Welsh Assembly. If Opposition Members—
Order. I think I need to help the hon. Gentleman. As he knows, we are dealing with the new clause. I do not want the history of the Welsh health service, which is certainly not what Members are here to listen to. I know he wants to get back to the new clause, which is where we will carry on. He should also look to the Chair now when he speaks.
I shall simply say this, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will vote in the Lobbies with the Government tonight. Many people in Wales would like the opportunity to vote with their feet and be treated by the national health service which is run by this coalition Government, and I hope that we shall get around to addressing that at a later stage.
I apologise for arriving so late, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have been stuck in a meeting.
Let me begin by saying, without party rancour, that I shall vote against any measure that puts further power in the centralised hands of the Secretary of State. I apologise for going down memory lane as well, Mr Deputy Speaker, but 40 years ago, when I first represented my constituency as a local councillor, we had what I thought was a very effective health service consisting of local GPs’ surgeries, two cottage hospitals and a district hospital. In the 1980s the two cottage hospitals were closed, because a new Secretary of State—let us leave aside the party to which he belonged—decided that we did not need them, that all the services should be centralised in the district hospital, and that there should be some investment in the GPs’ surgeries. We occupied Hayes cottage hospital in an attempt to keep it open, but we lost the battle. However, it became a residential home in the end, so we had some success.
What happened next was that other Secretaries of State came along and moved some of the services from the district hospital to more centralised hospitals in central London. Then a new Government were elected and a new Secretary of State decided that we needed to devolve again, so we had Darzi polyclinics, which looked awfully like cottage hospitals to me. If you stand still for long enough, it all comes round again.
All that was basically a result of what we heard about from Nick de Bois: a lack of trust in local people. I believe that local people supported the original model of GPs’ surgeries, cottage hospitals and a well-resourced district hospital. If they had been listened to at the time, we would not have gone round in a huge contorted circle to get back to what was virtually square one. As I have said, I am very anxious about any measure that puts further power in the hands of the Secretary of State and overrides the wishes of local people.
I entirely agree. There are still members of the community who, like me, deeply regret the fact that we lost two cottage hospitals in my constituency and another in the constituency of Sir John Randall. We lost a whole network of cottage hospitals. I do not remember who was Secretary of State in the 1980s under the Thatcher Government, but that Secretary of State was obsessed with closing them down, and they were closed down as a result of central diktat rather than listening to people.
As other Members have said, there were consultations, and, in every case, nearly 100% of local people wanted to keep the local cottage hospital. Steve Baker said that we were running a socialist health service. Well, my socialism is grass-roots socialism—community socialism—which means listening to local people and respecting their wishes. Local people often know intuitively what is right, and that is why I am so anxious about any further powers being put in the hands of the Secretary of State.
Not for the first time, I find myself gently agreeing with the hon. Gentleman. I think that he has advanced a magnificently Conservative argument, and I look forward to his eventually matching the colour of his tie with the colour of his rosette.
I will show the hon. Gentleman a few books about council socialism and the socialism of the grass roots.
Today’s debate is about trust, about listening to local people, and about not allowing any further powers to accrete in the Secretary of State’s hands and override local wishes. People do not trust central Government. That is not a party-political point; I think that people have been ill used over a long period by not being listened to at local level, which is why I urge Members to support the new clauses and the amendment.
Let us not denigrate organisations such as 38 Degrees which are merely expressing a view. Others may not agree with that view, but it has been expressed to me not just by 38 Degrees, but in e-mail after e-mail and letter after letter from people whose views I respect because they have gone through the same local experience as me. All that those people want is long-term stability and investment in a publicly funded and democratically accountable health service.
It is a pleasure to follow John McDonnell. He said at the beginning of his remarks, and he kept to his pledge, that he was going to speak without party rancour. I, too, would like to do that because I think there is very little difference between my views on the health service and those of Andy Burnham. We may perhaps have a divergence of view on how to achieve what we both passionately believe in, as does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, which is the finest health service for the provision of care for all people in this country, but on the core principle of a national health service, free at the point of use for all those eligible to use it, there is not one iota of difference, despite the speech I heard from the endearing hon. Member for Easington (Grahame M. Morris). I almost felt I had woken up from a nightmare. Having listened to the same speech in 39 of the 40 sittings of the Health and Social Care Bill Committee, I regarded it as my good fortune that during the 40th sitting, my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State was giving evidence to the Health Committee which prevented the hon. Gentleman being in our Committee.
The point I want to make is this: the national health service has from day one constantly evolved in the delivery of health care, partly because of changing medical science, partly because of changes in the diseases that people have suffered from owing to improved and enhanced preventive care, and partly because many conditions that in the past one would stay in hospital for no longer need to be treated in hospital but can be treated in a GP surgery or elsewhere. We all—politicians, medical practitioners and others—have to recognise that the NHS is constantly evolving and revolving, and we have to adjust to those changes and meet those challenges.
I passionately believe that decisions within the NHS should be taken locally. I supported the Health and Social Care Bill so strongly because it devolved powers and decision making to the people who I think are best qualified to take commissioning decisions on behalf of patients—local GPs. I also welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is no longer micro-managing the running of the NHS on a day-to-day basis. However much admiration I have for my right hon. Friend, or even for the shadow Secretary of State when he was in post, I do not think he is best qualified to be running the health service on a day-to-day basis.
If we are going to evolve and meet the challenges, difficult decisions will have to be taken, and politicians in particular—politicians of all political parties; this does not apply simply to Opposition Members of Parliament or to Conservative Members or to Liberal Democrats—have got to be braver. When there is any consideration of a reconfiguration to meet new challenges or address problems, the knee-jerk reaction is to take the populist, easy route, say no and oppose for opposition’s sake, rather than look at the reasons behind any reconfiguration.
The right hon. Gentleman knows I have huge regard for him and I do not disagree that change needs to be made. The question, however, is how we make that change. I remember that when the earlier Bill was going through, he repeatedly said in this House and in TV studios that the principle behind it—if it had a principle—was to put local doctors in charge. Does he think that clause 119 is consistent with the argument he made when the earlier Bill went through?
I am grateful to my right hon.—or, rather, the right hon. Gentleman; I nearly made a Freudian slip—for that question. I can unequivocally say to him that I believe it as strongly and firmly today as I did when I was one of the Ministers taking the Health and Social Care Bill through this House three years ago. And I shall tell the right hon. Gentleman why I believe it.
I was saying that politicians of all parties must strengthen their backbone and be prepared to look at each case of reconfiguration on its merits, and then take difficult decisions if they are in the best interests of patients. I believe that reconfigurations should initially be determined at local level—[Interruption.] If the right hon. Member for Leigh will wait, I will get to his point. They should be determined by local commissioners in consultation with local people and with the health and wellbeing boards, which play a vital part in keeping local communities and local health interests plugged in and represented, and in ensuring the delivery of the necessary services locally.
However—this is where I get to the right hon. Gentleman’s point—there will be a few rare and exceptional circumstances in which a TSA will have to be appointed. That is what happened in the case of South London. At that time, I happened to be privy to all the discussions that led up to what was, if I remember correctly, the unprecedented decision taken by the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend Mr Lansley.
My right hon. Friend is making the key point in this debate. He is describing a locally rooted, clinically led consultation process that engages the professional community as well as the local political community. It must be right that we deliver change in the health and care system in that way. The Health and Social Care Act was motivated by exactly that thought process, as my hon. Friend Steve Baker said. That is not what clause 119 is about, however. It covers how we should deal with the very confined circumstances in which all those processes have failed. Are we really going to say that a trust special administrator can only look at the circumstances of an institution that has been proved to be unviable? Or are we going to allow him to look outside those circumstances, in order to deliver better care for patients? That is the question the House has to decide on this evening.
As always, my right hon. Friend anticipates what I am about to say and says it in a far more straightforward way. He is absolutely right to say that there will be exceptional circumstances; there has been one instance so far. In such circumstances, the health economy in a particular area will need to be looked at—not in isolation; that is impossible owing to the nature of patient flows and the delivery of care—in order to get to the bottom of the problem and solve it on the ground.
A number of hon. Members said that clause 119 was a vehicle for closing down hospitals or services while totally disregarding the wishes and needs of the local health economy and local people. I say to them with the greatest respect that they have—probably for genuine reasons—misunderstood the purpose of the TSA. I ask them to think again, because this is too important an issue to be politicised and used in a game of ping-pong between political parties, or groups within those parties, to try to score political points. Our sole aim must be to ensure the improvement and viability of services. Sometimes, tough decisions will have to be taken—because of changing patterns, or whatever—and in the overwhelming majority of cases, they will be taken through consultation and through the decision-making process in the local health economy.
We have been talking about the power of the TSA. I must point out, in the friendliest and gentlest way, that that power was not introduced into the health service by this Government. It was done, I think I am right in saying, by the right hon. Member for Leigh’s predecessor, and he did it for very good reasons. He accepted, as my right hon. Friend Mr Dorrell, the Chair of the Select Committee, said in his intervention, that there will be rare occasions when everything else has failed and this measure of last resort must be used. It is viable and reasonable to have that power as a measure of last resort, as the previous Government obviously thought; otherwise, they would never have put it on the statute book in their legislation.
The short answer to the hon. Gentleman, because I have the freedom of the Back Benches, is that I do not share that view. I was privy to the discussions that led to South London being put into special measures. That was done because there were real and significant problems to which it was impossible at a local level, within NHS London and elsewhere, to find a coherent—[Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Leigh says no. He was in opposition at the time these conversations were taking place.
It is wrong. The right hon. Gentleman will know that when he arrived at the Department of Health in May 2010, there was a plan in place called “A picture of health”—[Interruption.] My hon. Friend Jim Dowd agrees. The plan, which had been extensively debated and consulted on at local level, was to make difficult changes to the health service in south-east London. That plan was shelved because of the right hon. Gentleman’s moratorium, and precious time to make changes was therefore lost. The financial problems in those health service organisations increased because the plan was shelved, and they were left with the option of having to bring forward a more brutal administration process. Please do not rewrite history in a debate as important as this.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this is a very important debate. I have the benefit of having attended the meetings and having seen what was happening in South London. In one respect the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: there was a moratorium. The country wanted a moratorium to start with because of some of the closures that were causing problems, and people wanted a re-examination of the situation to check that the right decisions were being taken. Work was still going on to find a solution to South London, and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire reluctantly came to the conclusion that he had to take the exceptional power that was available to him.
No. I am about to conclude as I know the winding-up speeches have to begin.
In conclusion, this is an important power, and it is there to be used in very exceptional circumstances. It is factually incorrect and it will scare people to accuse any Government of using the power to reconfigure services. It will not be used for that. Reconfiguration will go through the correct processes and be based locally, with the local health economy and local people and with the input of organisations such as the health and wellbeing board. It would be foolish, as I think the previous Government agreed, not to have an emergency fall-back position to secure that. That is why we had the original power under Labour’s legislation, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is continuing that power and fine-tuning it.
I thank all my hon. Friends and other hon. Members for their contributions to this important debate. I shall respond to as much of what has been said as I can in the time available.
The House is being asked to consider specific changes the Government are making to the existing trust special administrator regime, which was introduced under the previous Government. I stress at the outset that the TSA regime will not be used routinely, and will only be used when all other processes at a local level to deal with the challenges of hospitals have been exhausted. The usual approach for locally led reconfigurations will remain. TSAs are for rare and extreme cases of failure. This is not a power to be used to reconfigure services routinely—we need to get that right at the outset. This is a system of last resort, and other actions will of course be taken first to address the problems of trusts in difficulty.
Let me make the Minister aware of a real and live example: the decision of Bedford and Milton Keynes clinical commissioning groups to look at their hospitals in an ongoing review. Will the Minister provide me with a hand-on-heart, job-on-the-line assurance that these powers will not be used in that review?
I can assure my hon. Friend absolutely that these are locally driven reviews of clinical services—driven by local commissioners, clinically led and absolutely nothing to do with the TSA process which we are discussing today. Any scaremongering that is taking place locally is, frankly, outrageous and to the detriment of the hard work that local professionals are doing to design the right health care services.
As I said, the TSA system is one of last resort. It is about ensuring that local solutions are initially found for trusts in difficulty. That may include support from the NHS Trust Development Authority or Monitor, as part of a special measures process, or it may involve more rigorous inspections by the CQC. Other support may include requiring the publication of action plans to tackle quality or financial problems, buddying with other trusts, or making management changes. All other such processes will have had to be exhausted before the TSA process would be necessary.
That is absolutely the case. It is absolutely wrong to conflate the fact—as Opposition Members are trying to do—that from time to time even good hospitals occasionally run deficits with the TSA regime. This is a power of last resort; it is not a power that is routinely used. Local measures are in place to support hospitals to get their finances in order and to ensure that where there are care quality problems, they are addressed promptly to the benefit of patients.
The Minister was saying that all other measures should be explored first, in particular co-operation—buddying, he said—between hospitals. If that is the case, why did the Competition Commission step in to prevent sensible collaboration between two hospitals on the south coast, Bournemouth and Poole? How is what he has just said consistent with the Health and Social Care Act 2012, which requires hospitals to compete, not to collaborate?
As part of our changes in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire inquiry—changes the right hon. Gentleman would be wise to heed and learn lessons from, if he should be lucky enough ever to be on the Government Benches again—we have made it clear that we need to ensure that where there are care quality failures, hospitals learn to put such problems right much more promptly than they have done in the past. That is why we put in place buddying mechanisms and why we put trusts in special measures, to deal with issues quickly and effectively to ensure that hospital services are put back on track and patients can be properly protected.
Does the Minister recognise that the reason why there is concern about clause 119—with due respect to the shadow Secretary of State, I would say it is misplaced concern—is that there is legitimate concern about the way routine reconfiguration mechanisms work? Time after time, consultation does not appear to work on the ground. I have some experience of that in my constituency, where the Burton hospital trust is attempting to reconfigure our services.
My hon. Friend makes a good point, which has been made by Government Members throughout this debate. Under the previous Government, in particular, many people felt that things were done to them with their local NHS, rather than done in the best interests of local patients. Importantly, decisions were very rarely made with clinical leadership under the previous Government. Proper patient consultation and patient engagement did not take place. I have a list with me of maternity units downgraded under Labour; it is right to say that individual reconfiguration decisions need to be looked at on their merits, but there was a long and tragic history under the previous Government of the public, patients and local clinicians not being properly engaged in the process. That is why our Government have introduced a better process whereby, as my right hon. Friend Mr Burns pointed out, decisions about local health care services under our 2012 Act are led now by clinicians through the clinical commissioning groups. We now have health and wellbeing boards, which is an important step forward in better joining up and integrating the health and care system that we all believe in, and in ensuring that democratically elected local authorities have more oversight of our health and care system. Those are important steps forward and this Government should be proud of them. They indicate that decisions should be made locally for the benefit of local people, and that is how things routinely happen.
The trust special administrator regime is not used lightly; it is used in extremis, which is why it has been used only twice in the past five years.
Let me make a little progress, because I have been generous in giving way.
Let us consider the following:
“The vast majority of trusts perform well, but in the rare instances where that is not the case, there must be transparent processes in place to deal with poor performance.”—[Hansard, 8 June 2009; Vol. 493, c. 544.]
I completely agree with those words—Andy Burnham used them when he described the purpose of the regime to this House in 2009. This is Labour’s regime, which it now tries to disown in opposition. The TSA regime is only ever used as the very last resort, and provisions in the Care Bill will introduce, importantly, a new role for the Care Quality Commission for triggering the regime when there has been a serious failure of quality; the emphasis will now be on quality, rather than merely on financial failure.
Clause 119 respects the coalition agreement that routine service changes will be locally led; it is about protecting patients and ensuring we can act rapidly and effectively in their best interests in examples of extreme failure. It may therefore be helpful if I set out some of the changes and improvements we are making to the regime under clause 119.
I think I know the answer to this, but I think that the opposite has been said so many times in the past three and a quarter hours that it is worth saying it again. The Minister knows that my local foundation trust is undergoing proposals that will lead to a public consultation on reconfiguration, which is supported on clinical grounds by the commissioners. Whatever view local representatives and others take on that—I am far from sold on this at the moment—will he confirm to me, as he did to my hon. Friend Richard Fuller, that neither he nor his administrators will be on a train to Winchester any time soon?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right in what he says. These are decisions, under the legislation that this Government introduced, that are being led by local commissioners and local clinicians engaging with patients; they are nothing to do with the TSA regime we are discussing today, which deals with examples of extreme failure in the NHS.
I do need to make some progress, as I have been generous in giving way. If hon. Members will let me make some progress, I may give way again a little later.
Clause 119 was introduced following calls to the Government by key stakeholders representing NHS providers—the Foundation Trust Network and the NHS Confederation. Like us, they recognise the experience of how the regime has operated. They know that issues of financial and clinical sustainability of health services nearly always cross organisational boundaries, and they were clear that the Labour Government’s regime needed amendments to make it effective in the spirit that the right hon. Member for Leigh intended when he created it in 2009. Let me read out again what was said in the impact assessment to the 2009 TSA regime—his regime. It states:
“NHS Trusts…are not free-floating, commercial organisations.”
It also says:
“State-owned providers are part of a wider NHS system.”
We fully agree with that, and that is what we are ensuring we take into account in the TSA regime. That is what clause 119 is about. Clause 119 would extend the remit of a TSA to make recommendations that may apply to—
I may give way in a few moments, but I need to make a bit of progress. The clause would extend the remit of a TSA to make recommendations that may apply to services beyond the confines of the trust in administration. The Secretary of State or, in the case of foundation trusts, Monitor, will be able to make decisions based on those wider powers. Where severe and prolonged problems exist, an administrator must be able to recommend a solution in the best interests of local patients. Only then can we resolve the situation in a sensible, holistic way and ensure safe and sustainable patient care. That is what the impact assessment said of the 2009 TSA regime, and something the Government are ensuring that we deliver, even though the previous Government failed to deliver it.
The Minister is being generous. He has made the argument all afternoon that he is doing what I was doing; he is just using the powers that I created. That is the crux of his argument. If that is the case, why did three judges rule that this Government had broken Parliament’s original intention when they passed those powers?
Order. The right hon. Gentleman was listened to with courtesy. The same courtesy must be shown to the Minister.
I have repeatedly read out supporting evidence from the previous Government and from the impact assessment that showed that they recognised that the regime had to take into account the wider health economy. It is not my fault or the fault of hon. Members on the Government Benches that Labour’s legislation was not properly drafted, and that it did not do what it intended—
I must make progress. I want to address the points made by my right hon. Friend Paul Burstow. I will not give way until I have made better progress. On the point made by the right hon. Gentleman—and this is important—when he put forward the legislation on the TSA, he envisaged potentially turning it into a hospital closure clause. In 2009, on Second Reading of the Health Bill, he said:
“We believe these measures will provide protection against the possibility of NHS providers continuing indefinitely.”—[Hansard, 8 June 2009; Vol. 493, c. 544.]
That would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman thought that whole organisations might be shut down or closed as a result of the TSA regime. We do not believe that that is the case. We recognise that trusts, when they severely fail, may have to change the services they deliver. We want to protect trusts from the closure that the right hon. Gentleman envisaged in his remarks. His own words indicate that Labour had a hospital closure clause in the TSA regime. The Government, however, are making it clear that this is about service change in the interest of patients when all other avenues have been exhausted, which is a good thing.
Let me turn now to new clause 16, tabled by my right hon. Friend Andrew George and other hon. Members.
The Government are grateful to Members for raising these important issues, but, regretfully, we cannot accept the amendment. The amendment makes two key changes. First, it gives commissioners of other trusts affected by the recommendations of an administrator at a foundation trust, the power to define essential services at those trusts. That would be cumbersome and impractical and draw the focus away from the trust in administration and undermine the need for recommendations affecting other providers to be “necessary and consequential”, which is something that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam believes in and raised in Committee.
Secondly, protecting essential services gives the administrator their focus for the trust in administration; it is a critical part of the process. Asking commissioners at other trusts to define their essential services would incorrectly indicate an equivalence in the administrator’s role between the failed trust and other successful providers.
Clause 119 recognises the need to give other commissioners a clear role and a proper say. It already extends the existing requirement on an administrator at a foundation trust to obtain the consent for their recommendations from each commissioner of the failing trust, and also from each commissioner of any affected trust. NHS England support must be sought in cases where not all commissioners agree.
Let me be absolutely clear. Under subsections (3), (4) and (6), the commissioners who are asked to agree and draft the final TSA report already include commissioners from affected trusts. It may be hard to spot that in the clause, as it amends existing legislation.
Clause 119 also requires the administrator to consult other affected commissioners. He or she must publish a summary of the consultation responses and take them properly into account when making final recommendations. The Secretary of State or Monitor will need to be satisfied that the administrator has carried out their administration duties properly, including showing proper regard for the statutory guidance.
Commissioners of other affected trusts will therefore have every opportunity to make their views known. However, I would like to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam for bringing the matter to our attention. The Government agree that it is important for other local commissioners to be able to protect their essential services. We will update the guidance to make it clear that the agreement of commissioners to the TSA report should include their agreement that essential services have been protected at other trusts, as well as at the failing trust, so that all local commissioners have an equal say, with NHS England arbitrating in the event of disagreement. Furthermore, I would like to invite my right hon. Friend to chair a committee of MPs and peers to consider the draft guidance and ensure that his concerns are properly addressed before the regime is used.
The spirit of the previous Government’s legislation was to look at the wider health economy when a trust is in extremis and has reached the point at which it is failing patients, either because of its financial failure or the direct effect that has on the quality of patient care. There then needs to be a wider look at the whole health economy. I know the Princess Royal university hospital in my hon. Friend’s constituency very well. I also know Lewisham hospital very well, having done some of my medical training there. They cannot be seen in isolation from King’s college hospital, Woolwich, Sidcup and all the other hospitals in the area, because they look after patients in that part of London as part of an integrated health and care service. When a hospital fails in that way, it has to be looked at holistically. It is a power of last resort, to be used when a trust is in extremis, not a routine power, which is why we have the TSA process set up by the previous Government.
I am grateful to the Minister for some of the clarifications he has given so far. When he concludes his comments on new clause 16, will he confirm that the review of the guidance that he has invited me to chair will also consider the issue of consultation to ensure that it is genuinely pervious to public opinion and other clinical opinions in the area?
I am happy to give my right hon. Friend that assurance. It will be for him to lead the review, and we look forward to the work he does.
New clause 16 would make a second key change: to prevent the Secretary of State or Monitor making decisions about recommendations affecting other trusts. Instead, local commissioners would have to undertake a further process of consultation and make their own decision. The effect would be to completely undo the changes that clause 119 is seeking to make—
Order. If hon. Members across the Chamber wish to have private conversations, they should leave. The Minister is answering some important points and ought to be listened to.
It would take outside the administration process and the timetable recommendations that affect other trusts. It could mean that a complete solution for the trust in administration and local patients could not be found. As before, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam said that examining in isolation a trust that is failing significantly would be like throwing it to the wolves on its own. New clause 16 would render the strict legal timetable for the regime ineffective by significantly delaying resolution. I know that it is not his intention, but the new clause would undo the core purpose of clause 119 and the very aims of the regime, which are to put in place sustainable and safe health care services for patients when a trust has significantly failed.
I think I have heard the Minister tell us that there will be an equivalency between commissioners whereby they will all have to agree to changes being led by a trust special administrator, that there will be further examination of the consultation issues, and that we will make sure that the process is used rarely and exceptionally. Given his confirmation of those things, I want him to know that I am satisfied that my concerns are being addressed. On that basis, I do not intend to press my new clause, and I urge colleagues to do likewise.
I am very pleased that my right hon. Friend is reassured. I pay tribute to the tremendous work that he has done throughout the passage of the Bill in scrutinising and pushing the Government to ensure that we produce better, and good, legislation. I commend him for the work he has done on that.
It is important to point out that clause 119 makes a number of changes to strengthen patient, public and commissioner involvement in the process. In concluding, I shall draw out its important aspects. First, the clause would extend the public consultation period from six to eight weeks so that the public and others in the wider health economy can give their views and improve the recommendations. It would also give the administrator more time than the previous Labour Government did to produce draft recommendations, extending the period from 45 to 65 working days.
Secondly, the clause would allow a more holistic view to be taken of the wider local health system by allowing an administrator to make wider recommendations, but only as long as those recommendations are necessary for, and consequential on, primary recommendations about the failing trust.
Thirdly, the clause would widen consultation to affected trusts, their staff and commissioners. In addition—I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam for suggesting this—we are providing in amendments 11 and 12 greater public and patient representation in the regime by requiring the administrator to consult local authorities and Healthwatch organisations. That will ensure that the voice of local communities is at the front and centre of the administrator’s final recommendations. This important clause makes sure that patients and local commissioners are properly consulted. Indeed, we make sure that Healthwatch is put at the heart of everything that happens. The clause also improves arrangements for the administrator in seeking the support of commissioners affected by their recommendations, as we have discussed. That means that an administrator could develop recommendations that provide a solution for the future of failing trust services, ensuring that all those affected are fully involved. That has to be the right action.
We have heard a lot from Labour Members about the trust special administrator regime. Let us remember that this was their provision and their regime. We are putting in place measures that are true to their intentions when they put this in place, so that a trust is not thrown to the wolves when it meets their circumstances of severe failure. We will make sure that we always act in the best interests of patients. Andy Burnham is good at playing politics and good at spin. I am a doctor. I will always do what I believe is in the best interests of patients, and that is exactly what clause 119 will achieve.