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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 4:15 pm on 11th March 2014.

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Photo of Heidi Alexander Heidi Alexander Opposition Whip (Commons) 4:15 pm, 11th March 2014

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.