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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 5:45 pm on 11th March 2014.

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Photo of Daniel Poulter Daniel Poulter The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 5:45 pm, 11th March 2014

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.