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New Clause 6 — Secretary of State’s response to a section 65 regulator’s report on an NHS foundation trust

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 3:00 pm on 11th March 2014.

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Photo of Jeremy Lefroy Jeremy Lefroy Conservative, Stafford 3:00 pm, 11th March 2014

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.