We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

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 3:45 pm on 11th March 2014.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Paul Burstow Paul Burstow Liberal Democrat, Sutton and Cheam 3:45 pm, 11th March 2014

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.