“(1) It is an offence under the law of England and Wales for a person to carry out virginity testing.
(2) ‘Virginity testing’ means the examination of female genitalia, with or without consent, for the purpose (or purported purpose) of determining virginity.
(3) An offence is committed under subsection (1) only if the person—
(a) is in England and Wales, or
(b) is outside the United Kingdom, and is a United Kingdom national or habitually resident in England and Wales.
(4) ‘United Kingdom national’ means an individual who is—
(a) a British citizen, a British overseas territories citizen, a British National (Overseas) or a British Overseas citizen,
(b) a person who under the British Nationality Act 1981 is a British subject, or
(c) a British protected person within the meaning of that Act.
(5) In subsection (2), ‘female genitalia’ means a vagina or vulva.”—(Edward Argar.)
This new clause creates an offence under the law of England and Wales of virginity testing.
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
Government new clause 38—Offence of aiding or abetting etc a person to carry out virginity testing: England and Wales.
Government new clause 39—Virginity testing offences in England and Wales: penalties.
Government new clause 40—Offence of virginity testing: Scotland.
Government new clause 41—Offence of offering to carry out virginity testing: Scotland.
Government new clause 42—Offence of aiding or abetting etc a person to carry out virginity testing: Scotland.
Government new clause 43—Virginity testing offences in Scotland: penalties and supplementary.
Government new clause 44—Offence of virginity testing: Northern Ireland.
Government new clause 45—Offence of offering to carry out virginity testing: Northern Ireland.
Government new clause 46—Offence of aiding or abetting etc a person to carry out virginity testing: Northern Ireland.
Government new clause 47—Virginity testing offences in Northern Ireland: penalties.
Government new clause 48—Virginity testing: consequential amendments.
New clause 1—Licensing of aesthetic non-surgical cosmetic procedures—
“(1) No person may carry on an activity to which this subsection applies—
(a) except under the authority of a licence for the purposes of this section, and
(b) other than in accordance with specified training.
(2) Subsection (1) applies to an activity relating to the provision of aesthetic non-surgical procedures which is specified for the purposes of the subsection by regulations made by the Secretary of State.
(3) A person commits an offence if that person contravenes subsection (1).
(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision about licences and conditions for the purposes of this section.
(5) Before making regulations under this section, the Secretary of State must consult the representatives of any interests concerned which the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
(6) Regulations may, in particular—
(a) require a licensing authority not to grant a licence unless satisfied as to a matter specified in the regulations; and
(b) require a licensing authority to have regard, in deciding whether to grant a licence, to a matter specified in the regulations.”
This new clause gives the Secretary of State the power to introduce a licensing regime for aesthetic non-surgical cosmetic procedures and makes it an offence for someone to practise without a licence. The list of treatments, detailed conditions and training requirements would be set out in regulations after consultation with relevant stakeholders.
New clause 12—Protection of the title of “nurse”—
“(1) A person may not practise or carry on business under any name, style or title containing the word ‘nurse’ unless that person is registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and entered in sub part 1 or 2 of the register as a Registered Nurse or in the specialist community public health nursing part of the register.
(2) Subsection (1) does not prevent any use of the designation ‘veterinary nurse’, ‘dental nurse’ (for which see section 36K of the Dentists Act 1984) or ‘nursery nurse’.
(3) A person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level four on the standard scale.”
New clause 21—Prohibition of virginity testing—
“(1) A person is guilty of an offence if they attempt to establish that another person is a virgin by making physical contact with their genitalia.
(2) A person is guilty of an offence if they provide another person with a product intended for the purpose, or purported purpose, of establishing whether another person is a virgin.
(3) A person is guilty of an offence if they aid, abet, counsel or procure a person to establish that another person is a virgin by making physical contact with their genitalia.
(4) No offence is committed by an approved person who performs—
(a) a surgical operation on a person which is necessary for their physical or mental health; or
(b) a surgical operation on a female who is in any stage of labour, or has just given birth, for purposes connected with the labour or birth.
(5) The following are approved persons—
(a) in relation to an operation falling within subsection (4)(a), a registered medical practitioner; and
(b) in relation to an operation falling within subsection (5)(b), a registered medical practitioner, a registered midwife or a person undergoing a course of training with a view to becoming such a practitioner or midwife.
(6) There is also no offence committed by a person who—
(a) performs a surgical operation falling within subsection (4)(a) or (b) outside the United Kingdom; and
(b) in relation to such an operation exercises functions corresponding to those of an approved person.
(7) For the purpose of determining whether an operation is necessary for the mental health of a girl it is immaterial whether she or any other person believes that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual.
(8) This section applies to any act done outside the United Kingdom by a United Kingdom national or resident.
(9) A person who is guilty of an offence under this section is liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, to a fine, or to both.
(10) The court must refer the case of any person guilty of an offence under this section who is subject to statutory professional regulation for investigation by the relevant regulator.”
New clause 22—Prohibition of hymenoplasty—
2(1) A person is guilty of an offence if they undertake a surgical procedure for the purpose of re-attaching membrane tissue, creating scar tissue or otherwise attempting to re-create the hymen in the vagina of a patient.
(2) A person is guilty of an offence if they advertise the service of hymenoplasty or any service that purports to ‘re-virginise’ or otherwise re-create or re-attach the hymen of a patient by way of surgical procedure.
(3) A person is guilty of an offence if they aid, abet, counsel or procure a person to undertake a surgical procedure for the purpose of re-attaching membrane tissue, creating scar tissue or otherwise attempting to or re-creating the hymen in the vagina of a patient.
(4) This section applies to any act done outside the United Kingdom by a United Kingdom national or resident.
(5) A person who is guilty of an offence under this section is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years.
(6) The court must refer the case of any person guilty of an offence under this section who is subject to statutory professional regulation for investigation by the relevant regulator.”
New clause 28—Secretary of State’s duty to report on long term workforce planning—
“(1) The Secretary of State must prepare and publish a report each year on projected workforce shortages and future staffing requirements for health, public health and social care sectors in the following five, ten and twenty years.
(2) The report must report projections of both headcount and full-time equivalent for the total health, public health and care workforce in England and for each region, covering all regulated professions and including those working for voluntary and private providers of health and social care as well as the NHS.
(3) The projections must be independently verified and based on projected health and care needs of the population for the following 5, 10 and 20 years, consistent with the Office for Budget Responsibility long-term fiscal projections.
(4) All relevant NHS bodies, arm’s-length bodies, expert bodies, trade unions and the Social Partnership forum must be consulted in the preparation of the report.
(5) The assumptions underpinning the projections must be published at the same time as the report and must meet the relevant standards set out in the National Statistics Authority’s Code of Practice for Statistics.
(6) The Secretary of State must update Parliament each year on the Government’s strategy to deliver and fund the long-term workforce projections.”
New clause 29—Duty on the Secretary of State to report on workforce planning and safe staffing—
“(1) At least every five years the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a health and care workforce strategy for workforce planning and safe staffing supply.
(2) This strategy must include—
(a) actions to ensure the health and care workforce meets the numbers and skill-mix required to meet workforce requirements,
(b) equality impact assessments for planned action for both workforce and population,
(c) application of lessons learnt from formal reviews and commissions concerning safety incidents,
(d) measures to promote retention, recruitment, remuneration and supply of the workforce, and
(e) due regard for and the promotion of workplace health and safety, including provision of safety equipment and clear mechanisms for staff to raise concerns.”
Amendment 10, in clause 34, page 42, line 12, leave out from beginning to the end of line 17 and insert—
“(1) The Secretary of State must, at least once every two years, lay a report before Parliament describing the system in place for assessing and meeting the workforce needs of the health, social care and public health services in England.
(2) This report must include—
(a) an independently verified assessment of health, social care and public health workforce numbers, current at the time of publication, and the projected workforce supply for the following five, ten and 20 years; and
(b) an independently verified assessment of future health, social care and public health workforce numbers based on the projected health and care needs of the population for the following five, ten and 20 years, consistent with the Office for Budget Responsibility long-term fiscal projections.
(4) The organisations listed in subsection (3) must consult health and care employers, providers, trade unions, Royal Colleges, universities and any other persons deemed necessary for the preparation of this report, taking full account of workforce intelligence, evidence and plans provided by local organisations and partners of integrated care boards.”
This amendment would require the Government to publish independently verified assessments every two years of current and future workforce numbers required to deliver care to the population in England, based on the economic projections made by the Office for Budget Responsibility, projected demographic changes, the prevalence of different health conditions and the likely impact of technology.
Amendment 40, in clause 108, page 96, line 9, leave out subsection (2) and insert—
“(2) In this Part ‘protected material’ means—
(a) all statements taken from persons by the HSSIB during a safety investigation or in the course of deciding whether an incident is going to be subject to an HSSIB investigation,
(b) records revealing the identity of persons who have given evidence in the context of the safety investigation,
(c) information that has been collected by the HSSIB which is of a particularly sensitive and personal nature, such as (but not limited to) copies taken by the HSSIB of health records, care records, clinical notes, or personnel records,
(d) material subsequently produced during the course of an HSSIB investigation such as (but not limited to) notes, drafts and opinions written by the investigators, or opinions expressed in the analysis of information obtained through the investigation,
(e) drafts of preliminary or final reports or interim reports, and
(f) information that would be subject to legally enforceable commercial privileges.”
This amendment would define more closely the materials covered by the “safe space” protection provided for by the Bill.
Amendment 41, page 96, line 32, leave out
“information, document, equipment or other item held by that individual” and insert “protected material”.
This amendment is consequential on Amendment 40.
Amendment 43, in clause 109, page 96, line 43, leave out from “Part” to end of line 24 on page 97.
This amendment would remove the ability of the Secretary of State to make regulations authorising disclosure of protected material beyond that provided for in the Bill.
Amendment 74, page 101, line 1, leave out clause 115.
Government amendments 24 and 127.
Amendment 57, page 110, line 11, leave out clause 127.
This amendment seeks to ensure that a profession currently regulated cannot be removed from statutory regulation and that regulatory bodies cannot be abolished.
Government amendments 86 and 87.
Government new schedule 1—Virginity testing: consequential amendments.
Government amendment 88.
Amendment 42, in schedule 14, page 218, line 30, leave out paragraph 6.
This amendment would remove the provision allowing coroners to require the disclosure of protected material.
This broad group of amendments concern improving patient safety and the quality of health and care services, both of which are a priority for this Government. For that reason, this Bill will put the Health Services Safety Investigations Body on a statutory footing. The HSSIB will be one of the first independent healthcare bodies of its kind, leading the way in investigating for the purpose of learning, not blaming. For the HSSIB to be able to perform this “no-blame” role, the integrity of safe space is paramount. I look forward to contributions from right hon. and hon. Members from both sides of the House, recognising the depth of expertise, particularly that residing in Dr Whitford, on how best to make safe space work. As we discussed extensively in Committee, we recognise that ultimately this comes down to: what is the appropriate balance to be struck? Different views are likely to be aired again today.
Within this group, I will also address amendments brought forward by colleagues, including my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt, on the health and social care workforce. Ensuring we have the workforce this country needs will, in the short-term, tackle the elective backlog. Crucially, in the long-term, as we build back better, it will help to reduce damaging health inequalities. For those reasons, I will later speak in more detail about this Government’s plans on the workforce, some of which of course are already in motion. I hope I can reassure the House that the provisions already made in this Bill, alongside the Government amendments I am about to discuss, do go sufficiently far to address these important issues.
I will begin by addressing new clauses 36 to 48, new schedule 1 and amendments 86 and 87, which comprise the package of Government amendments to prohibit virginity testing in the UK. I offer my deepest thanks to my hon. Friend Mr Holden for his tireless efforts in proposing these amendments originally and in supporting the Government in proposing our variations on them, which we believe achieve the right balance—I will turn to that in a moment—as we bring forward this ban.
I should also put on the record my gratitude to the Opposition Front-Bench team for their constructive engagement on this issue, which does not divide us on party political lines but is about doing the right thing. I am grateful to the shadow Ministers on the Opposition Front Bench: the hon. Members for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders) and for Nottingham North (Alex Norris).
In July, the Government promised in our violence against women and girls strategy that virginity testing will not be tolerated in the UK and will be banned at the earliest opportunity, so I am delighted that we are introducing amendments that demonstrate the strength of our commitment to the removal of all forms of abuse against women and girls. Our amendments will create three offences: conducting a virginity test; offering virginity testing; and aiding or abetting another person to conduct a virginity test in the UK or on UK nationals overseas. Each offence will carry a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. This sentencing reflects the long-term physical and psychological damage that this repressive practice can cause.
The offences begin to tackle the harmful misconceptions that surround a woman’s sexuality. This House’s commitment to legislate is a profoundly important step forward in helping to tackle the damaging myths concerning the so-called purity of women’s sexuality. In response to concerns that, once the offence is banned in the UK, vulnerable women and girls will be taken abroad and subjected to virginity testing there, the offences will carry extraterritorial jurisdiction.
The proposals have been discussed by Health Ministers throughout the UK, including in the devolved Administrations, and I am working with them to ensure that the whole of the UK together tackles this abhorrent practice. I put on record my gratitude to the devolved Administrations for the constructive manner in which they have engaged on the issue. I hope that the House will pass the amendments today and allow us to take another step forward in our shared endeavour and important work on safeguarding and improving the lives of women and girls throughout the United Kingdom.
Let me turn briefly to new clause 21, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham—I thank him again for doing so. I hope that what I have said will reassure him and the rest of the House that the package of Government amendments that I have just discussed go further to protect women and girls from this form of abuse and are the most effective vehicle by which we can achieve what we seek to do. Our package of amendments set out that the conducting, offering or aiding of a virginity test is simply indefensible. The amendments ensure that victims are protected on our shores and abroad and that the sentencing of those convicted reflects the detrimental physical and psychological impacts of the practice. I therefore hope that my hon. Friend will feel able not to press his new clause to a vote and instead to support our amendments. I am incredibly grateful to him—as, I am sure, is the House—for his campaigning vigour on this issue.
My hon. Friend also tabled new clause 22, which seeks to ban the practice of hymenoplasty. The Government remain concerned that hymenoplasty is also driven by a repressive approach to female sexuality and is closely related to virginity testing, which we have made clear today is not an acceptable practice in the United Kingdom or elsewhere. We announced in the violence against women and girls strategy that we would set up an independent expert panel to explore the complex clinical, legal and ethical aspects of the procedure in more detail. The panel, which includes key stakeholders with ethical and clinical expertise, has already met and will shortly make its recommendations to Ministers, before Christmas. It is crucial that, having asked the panel to contribute, we carefully consider its views before we make a firm decision to ban hymenoplasty. However, I assure the House that although we cannot accept the new clause today because we await the recommendations of the review panel, we will of course fully reassess our position as soon as the panel makes its recommendations.
If we are to ensure patient safety and quality of care, it is vital that we have the workforce in place to deliver it. That is a priority for the Government and I reassure the House that we are taking the necessary steps to secure the workforce of the health and social care sector. Members throughout the House would all agree that although investment in technology, in new hospitals and buildings, in therapeutics and in kit are all phenomenally important, the golden thread that makes that investment valuable is the workforce—the people who always go above and beyond, particularly in the past 18 months, to make that equipment more than just a shiny piece of kit but something that actually saves lives. They are absolutely the heart of what we are doing.
I am particularly concerned about the workforce situation in primary care. In my constituency, the practices are reporting back not only on an acute shortage of locums, but on their ability to recruit new GPs. One reason is that, 10,15, 20 years ago, there was inadequate planning for the future and we did not train enough doctors. That is one reason why I have signed amendment 10 tabled by my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt. May I urge the Government to go beyond where they have been and to look for any way available to deal with this issue now, and particularly to plan for the future so that this does not happen again?
My right hon. Friend is perspicacious in his prediction of where I was about to go. I was about to turn to amendment 10 tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey and new clause 28 tabled by the shadow Minister, which go to the heart of what my right hon. Friend is talking about.
I hope the shadow Minister will agree that amendment 10 and new clause 28 are, essentially, broadly unified in their intention and therefore I hope that he will allow me to take them both together. They require the Government to publish independently verified assessments of current and future workforce numbers for the needs of the health, social care and public health services in England.
There has rightly been much discussion on workforce planning for the NHS and adult social care. That reflects the deep debt of gratitude that the country owes the staff and also, as I said, their absolute indispensability in delivering on all our aspirations for healthcare and social care in this country and for our constituents’ care.
As part of our commitment to improving workforce planning, my Department is already doing substantial work to ensure that we recover from the pandemic and support care. We have already committed to publishing, in the coming weeks, a plan for elective recovery and to introducing further reforms to improve recruitment and support for our social care workforce, with further detail set out in an upcoming social care White Paper. We are also developing a comprehensive national plan for supporting and enabling integration between health, social care and other services, which support people’s health and wellbeing.
Let me turn to that framework, to which my right hon. Friend Chris Grayling was alluding, for a longer-term perspective. The Department has already commissioned Health Education England to work with partners to develop a robust, long-term 15-year strategic framework for the health and social care workforce, which, for the first time, will include regulated professionals in adult social care. That work was commissioned in July by my hon. Friend Helen Whately when she was in post in the Department. That work will look at the key drivers of workforce demand and supply over the longer term and will set out how they impact on the required shape and numbers of the future workforce to help identify those main strategic choices, and we anticipate publication in spring of next year.
It is vital that the workforce planning is closely integrated to the wider planning across health and social care and, as such, Health Education England, which has established relationships with the health and care system at a local, regional and national level, is best placed to develop such a strategy. Crucially, following the announcement yesterday of HEE merging with NHS England in improvement, we will, for the first time, bring together those responsible for planning services, for delivering services on the ground, and for delivering on the workforce needs of those services so that we can have a more integrated approach to delivering on that framework.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. There is much to commend in the amendment of my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt and in what the Minister is saying. One thing that is not obvious in either, though, is the focus on labour costs and productivity. For example, how is technology going to reduce labour costs in the delivery of the same quality or higher quality of service? What is the possibility of creating new care pathways, which require less qualified staff to deliver as good or better service? What is going on in terms of reducing the proportion of non-clinical staff by the adoption of technology and other means in healthcare? Perhaps the Minister could address that. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be doing so later, too.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We see huge opportunities, almost every day, from new technology and new ways of using that technology to deliver more efficient and shorter turnaround times—for tests and diagnostics, for example. He is also right to talk about the need constantly to examine care pathways, and, where opportunities exist, to use highly qualified healthcare professionals but to look carefully at the most appropriate level at which a treatment or test can be carried out; historically, we may have used healthcare professionals for particular tasks for which they were almost over-qualified. It is right that care pathways are informed by clinical and scientific expertise and judgment, but that we continue to review how new technology, new ways of working and new care pathways can improve the productivity of our amazing workforce.
As part of the Minister’s workforce review, will he look at the Carr-Hill formula, which local GPs tell me incentivises GPs to go to areas with longer life expectancy—therefore, wealthier areas—at the expense of areas such as Hull? It feels like the funding mechanism for GPs is not fair.
The Carr-Hill formula has been through many “almost reviews” over the years and has been looked at by different Governments. Various GP practices in my constituency—as I am sure is the case in the hon. Lady’s—understandably raise opinions about how the formula might be improved. The point does not necessarily goes to the entire heart of what we are discussing, but she has managed deftly to make it within scope, in the context of GPs and so forth.
Finally, the report in clause 34 will increase transparency and accountability of the workforce planning process. It is for those reasons that I encourage—perhaps unsuccessfully—my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey and the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston, to consider not pressing their amendments to a Division.
Fifteen years is a long time in workforce planning. The make-up of the workforce could change significantly over that time, not least as we are trying to address some real workforce crises now. Will the Minister put in place a road map to fill those vacancies over that time, and interim reports so that we can review progress?
I set out the commissioning of the 15-year framework to look at need. Within that, the House will be regularly updated, as happens now—not least in oral questions, as we saw in the session preceding this debate—with plenty of opportunities for Members to challenge the Government and to see updates. There is also the regular publication of figures and workforce statistics, which will continue. Once we have that 15-year framework back and see what HEE says, we will be able to look at how best that might be interrogated by Members of the House and the wider public. I am hopeful that it will report back in the spring, and I suspect that that may well occasion a debate in this House. If not, I suspect that it may well occasion an urgent question from the hon. Lady or the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston.
Let me turn to new clause 29, which also addresses the issue of workforce planning. This new clause would place a duty on the Secretary of State to report on workforce planning and safe staffing. I have just elaborated at some length on the substantial work that my Department is doing to improve workforce planning. It remains the responsibility of local clinical and other leaders to ensure safe staffing, supported by guidance and regulated by the Care Quality Commission. The ultimate outcome of good-quality care is influenced by a far greater range of issues than how many of each particular staff group are on any particular shift at any one time, even though that is clearly important, which is why the Government are committed to growing the health workforce. It is also important that local clinical leads can make decisions based on the circumstances in their own particular clinical setting, utilising their expertise and knowledge.
The amendment would also require the report to contain a review of lessons learnt. In the last decade, the Government have introduced significant measures to support the NHS to learn from things that go wrong, reduce patient harm and improve the response to harmed patients, such as: a regulated duty of candour that requires trusts to tell patients if their safety has been compromised and apologise; protections for whistleblowers when they raise safety concerns; the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, which we are building on and establishing as a separate statutory body through the Bill; and the first-ever NHS patient safety strategy, with substantial programmes planned and under way to create a safety and learning culture in the NHS.
I hope I have given the House some reassurance that we are doing substantive work to improve safe staffing and workforce planning. Again, I encourage the shadow Minister—perhaps it will be unsuccessful, but it is always worth trying—to consider withdrawing his amendment.
New clause 29(2)(d) has merits, as I am sure the Minister will accept, in that we need to incentivise people to join health and care, and, crucially, to be retained with the system. Will he give some consideration to this, particularly given that, for example, somebody working in the care system can work for years and years and still be in the same place when it comes to applying for a training place in a profession allied to medicine as somebody who simply has a couple of A-levels? That seems to be wrong. Does he agree that we need to complete the structure so that there is some prospect of progression with health and care and to try to break down the barriers between the two?
As ever, my right hon. Friend—my friend—makes his point well, and, as ever, I will commit to taking it away and reflecting on it very carefully. He is always very considered in the points he makes in this House, so I am happy to look at it.
I turn to Government amendment 127, which I bring forward with support of the Welsh Government. Clause 127 on professional regulation provides additional powers that will widen the scope of section 60 of the Health Act 1999 and enable the Privy Council to make additional changes through secondary legislation. One of the powers within this clause is to enable the regulation of groups of workers concerned with physical and mental health, whether or not they are generally regarded as a profession. This element of the clause falls within the legislative competence of the Senedd. When the section 60 powers are used, they are subject to the existing statutory requirements in schedule 3 of the Health Act 1999— namely, consultation and the affirmative parliamentary procedure. When legislation made using section 60 powers also falls within areas of devolved competence, it will be developed in collaboration with the devolved Administrations. Orders may require the approval of the Scottish Parliament where they concern professions brought into regulation after the Scotland Act 1998, or of the Welsh Assembly where the order concerns social care workers. In Northern Ireland, where the regulation of healthcare professions is a transferred matter, the UK Government will continue to seek the agreement of the Northern Ireland Executive when legislating on matters that effect regulation in its territory.
The amendment introduces a requirement to obtain the consent of Welsh Ministers before an Order in Council can be made under section 60 of the Health Act 1999 when it contains a provision that would be within the legislative competence of the Senedd. It would apply if we were seeking to bring into regulation in Wales a group of workers who are concerned with physical or mental health of individuals but who are not generally regarded as a profession. The UK Government recognise the competence of the Welsh Government regarding this provision and are respecting the relevant devolution settlement in making this amendment. For these reasons, I ask hon. Members to support the amendment.
Finally, I turn to the amendments related to part 4 of the Bill on the health services safety investigations body. These are the most significant set of provisions found within this Bill to enhance patient safety. The establishment of an independent healthcare body focused on learning from mistakes to improve safety and quality is a world first. For the health service safety investigations body to be able to perform this “no-blame” role, the integrity of safe space is paramount. Without it, health and care staff will not have confidence to come forward, and potential learning will be lost. This principle runs throughout the drafting of these clauses. We have made a small number of exceptions in the Bill—for example, to ensure that coroners can continue to perform their vital functions as judicial office holders and effectively as part of the judiciary. We have also provided for a regulation-making power to ensure that safe space can evolve in line with innovation in technology or medical practice. However, nothing in the Bill can or will undermine the imperative that the HSSIB is an independent organisation or the fundamental importance of safe space to the effective working of that organisation.
The Minister does not need to be anxious, because he has already heard it all in Committee. Does he not recognise that there is nothing in HSSIB that takes away from coroners’ investigations that they carry out at the moment, and that HSSIB should not be seen as replacing that work by another health body? Adding coroners to it has already created a campaign relating to the ombudsman and freedom of information, and there is a real danger that it weakens the safe space.
I am grateful for the manner in which the hon. Lady puts her points. She is right; we have debated this previously. We have been publicly clear that we do not believe that the exemption or exception should be extended to the ombudsman. She is right that there are campaigns saying we should have no exceptions or that we should widen the exceptions. We believe we have struck the right balance with this measure, while respecting the fact that a coroner is a judicial office holder and has a very specific function to perform, as set out in legislation in—this is where my memory may fail me—the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, which recognises their particular and special status. I suspect that she and I may have to agree to disagree on whether the appropriate balance is struck, but that sets out why we have done what we have done.
How best to achieve an effective safe space is complex and the current drafting has been arrived at through years of detailed policy work, including pre-legislative scrutiny before the Health Service Safety Investigations Bill was introduced in the other place in autumn 2019. The issue was also debated at length in Committee, and I look forward to hearing contributions from Members on that, particularly the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire.
Turning to the two minor and technical Government amendments to the health service safety investigations body provisions, amendment 24 is a technical amendment to clarify the definition of “investigation” that applies to part 4 of the Bill. Investigations carried out by HSSIB by agreement under clause 114, which relate to Wales and Northern Ireland, were never intended to be part of the main investigation function of HSSIB and therefore will not be covered by the safe space or other investigatory power provisions provided for in the Bill. The amendment ensures that the drafting of the Bill fully reflects that original policy position. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber will be content to pass this technical amendment.
Finally, I turn to Government amendment 88 to schedule 13. Schedule 13 contains a regulation-making power which allows the Treasury to vary the way any relevant tax has effect in relation to associated transfer schemes. Regulations made under this power will be used to ensure that no unintended tax consequences arise. The amendment ensures that value added tax is included in the taxes which the Treasury can, by regulations, vary when considering the transfer schemes in this Bill. Without this amendment, it is possible that complications with VAT bills may arise when transfer schemes are made and transactions take place. It is for those reasons that I ask hon. Members to support this amendment.
I am conscious that other hon. and right hon. Members may wish to speak to their amendments. I look forward to addressing those that I have not directly addressed thus far when I wind up debate on this group of amendments. With that, I conclude.
I will begin with our new clauses 28 and 29 and amendment 10. This discussion about workforce could well be the most important of all today. Just this weekend, Chris Hopson from NHS Providers was trying to get the Government to acknowledge the seriousness of the problem when he tweeted:
“93k NHS staff vacancies. £6bn spend on temporary staff to fill gaps. 55% of staff working unpaid extra hours each week. 44% saying they’ve felt ill with work related stress. NHS desperately needs long term workforce planning. Govt must make this happen this week.”
Everything comes back to workforce and the failure to invest in it consistently over a sustained period. Today we have a chance to correct that.
While we favour our new clause 29, it is obvious that amendment 10 has captured the attention of many and may well be put to a vote. In many ways, as the Minister said, it closely mirrors what we have put forward, so I will be making my general points on both the new clauses and the amendment. In supporting amendment 10, I pay tribute to Jeremy Hunt, the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee. Given his previous role, he is well placed to have an informed view on what needs to be done, and he has done that with this amendment without undue hype or drama. The support he has obtained more widely from stakeholders outside the House is impressive; indeed, the way he has united just about the entire sector shows not only his powers of persuasion, but the importance of the issue. He has come close to uniting the entire sector in the past, but that was usually in opposition to something he was proposing, rather than in support. There may be many other areas where we have disagreed in the past, but that does not diminish our support for his call.
Let us just say that the more I hear of the right hon. Gentleman, the more I like what he has to say—I will leave it there.
We all accept the urgent need to address the workforce crisis, but I cannot find anyone who thinks that what the Government have put forward in clause 34 is the solution.
A doctor in my constituency, Dr Tom James, told me that he and his colleagues in the hospital were demoralised, exhausted and at the end of their tether, particularly after the covid crisis, in a building that was falling apart around them. He said there was no more goodwill, and the Government needed to grab hold of this crisis and resolve it. Are new clause 29 and amendment 10 not a minimum, rather than a maximum, for what we should be looking to achieve?
New clause 29 and amendment 10 are the starting point, not the whole answer. They are a framework for getting this right in the future and offering the workforce, which, as the Minister said, has given so much in recent times, some hope that there will be better times along the way. I will refer later to the report by the Health and Social Care Committee on workforce burnout, which brought home just how demoralised the workforce have become and why they need to be given some positive news today.
Anyone who on Sunday was on the March with Midwives will understand the real crisis now facing that profession—a particularly acute once since it is also about women’s health. Is there not a need to ensure that plans are not just on paper, but expedited, so that we are sure of seeing real delivery of those much-needed staff?
Like just about every profession and sector in the NHS, midwives are under tremendous pressure and are understaffed. We need a clear plan, and a plan that is delivered. Of course, having a plan is not the whole answer, which is why it is important that we hear regular reports back from the Secretary of State on progress. That is why we hope amendment 10 will be supported.
One reason I want to emphasise the importance of new clause 28 is that we are anticipating a greater demand for mental health services, and therefore a greater demand for mental health professionals working in the NHS. Only by having regular reviews will we be able to anticipate what that demand will be and prepare accordingly.
My hon. Friend is correct; we could not have anticipated what has happened in the past 12 to 18 months, but we can see what it means moving forward. Regular reviews of demand are critical, and we know that training these highly qualified and skilled staff takes time, which is why a longer-term view and approach are required.
I want to pick up on the increasing demand for mental health services. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that in general, it is utterly impossible to meet the expectation of increasing demand for health services without vast improvements in the efficiency with which people working in the health and care sector deliver that service? Is it not a shortcoming of both the Government and the Opposition that there is not an intense focus on solving that problem of labour cost productivity? Without that, we will not be able to meet current needs and we certainly will not meet future needs.
We are always looking at ways to improve productivity, but we know that on the current figures there are 100,000 staff vacancies in the NHS. No amount of productivity gains will cover for that.
Richard Fuller talks about efficiency, but the figures show that in 2019-20, some £6.2 billion was spent on bank and agency staff. If we are talking about efficiency and using all the extra money the Government are saying they will put in to catch-up, we need to provide value for money for the taxpayer. Therefore, long-term planning to recruit the right skills is critical.
Having spent over three decades in the NHS, I know that this is not just about senior staff and what are called frontline staff. It is said, “We’ll protect frontline staff, but we’ll cut administrative staff or backroom staff.” However, if I am not in a clinic with the right results with the right patient at the right time, I am a waste of space. In actual fact, we need to look at the whole team. There is a sweet spot where I am working flat out but I have a team who are helping me. If we cut any of those, then we lose efficiency, and as Munira Wilson said, costs are going up, so we are becoming not more productive, but less productive.
I thank the hon. Member for her intervention. Indeed, this actually covers some of the debate we had in Committee. There has been a rhetoric coming out of Government in recent months that managers are somehow a cost burden and that administrative staff do not actually help deliver the services. Of course, as the hon. Member has just pointed out, they are a vital source of support for those on the frontline.
The hon. Member is being generous in giving way. Would he avoid the temptation to suggest that productivity is in some way simply a demand for hard-pressed people in health and social care to work harder? It is not that at all. It is just doing what they want to do, which is to work smarter and thus get more out of the system, which I think is what Dr Whitford has just said.
I accept what the right hon. Member has said. There has been a gap in investment in IT and other things that make people’s jobs easier and more efficient, and that has been a characteristic of NHS spending over the last decade.
With your permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will try to make some progress, but it is important, as we have talked about the staff, that we pay tribute to all those who make the NHS what it is today. On Nursing Support Worker Day, I pay tribute to all those who work in wards, clinics and community settings to support our nurses and provide that essential hands-on care to patients.
Our care system does indeed face a crisis—over waiting times, over recovery—but as with all other crises, the root cause is inadequate funding. The most visible and significant symptom is an inadequate workforce, plus the scandal of social care provision. There is no plan at the moment; it is just a plan for a plan. When we talk about a workforce crisis, that cannot be in any way a reflection on the huge value and contribution of the workforce we have now.
There are particular positive aspects to amendment 10 to which I would like to draw attention. Explicit recognition of the need to consult with the workforce through trade unions is very welcome. The planning covers health and social care, which is also absolutely essential. Given the scope of the review, the timescale is about right—every two years is demanding, but not too onerous—but a regular update each year might be preferable. However, the main point, which I have made already, is to compel a regular report and review of demand. The central role is that the Secretary of State has a duty to get planning done, and we hope that will be a crucial lever for the change we need to see.
If the amendment has a weakness, it is probably the one we have touched on already, which is that it does not ensure that the plan is feasible or delivered. A plan that shows the gap is not a plan unless it has a credible funding solution alongside it. Even if that is not explicit in the amendment, we assume that funding would follow any such assessment and plan that is set out. Our suggestion would be that any such financial projections in a plan are subject to the same level of independent expert verification as we see with the Office for Budget Responsibility. Since all the various think-tanks are going to do an assessment anyway, we may as well have a built-in process for verification.
Does my hon. Friend agree with me that many of the recruitment challenges often sit in outsourced services in the private sector, and as a result it is really difficult to find the complement of staff required because people want to work in the NHS? That needs to be taken into consideration in any workplace plan.
I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention and I will later talk a little about outsourcing and the role it has to play. We believe that plans should be built from the bottom up, not from the top, and that implies the involvement of ICBs, NHS trusts and foundation trusts. ICBs and their strategic arms, integrated care providers, will not be functional for some time. That is a shame, but it does not mean we should not proceed with the amendment.
The scale of the workforce challenge is well established: high rates of vacancy, inadequate levels of retention, and much more. It goes far deeper than numbers and structures, to issues of workforce terms and conditions, particularly in social care. It must also cover cultural issues, as there is a clear indication that all is not well in the NHS in terms of diversity. There is also whistleblowing, and aspects of how staff are nurtured and supported. At its very best, the NHS is very good, but unfortunately that is not the story across the board. It should be good in every part.
On that theme, let me mention the continuing disgrace in the way that some members of the NHS workforce are treated. I find it unacceptable that cleaners, porters, catering and IT staff are still being outsourced by trusts that are trying to make tax savings or outsource services to the lowest bidder. Perhaps the Minister can look into the current dispute at South Warwickshire in that regard, as we do not think that is a template to follow. Workforce planning is not a problem that can be solved quickly, although increased funding in social care could help that. For the NHS, the long term is indeed a long time—for example, the time needed to develop and train GPs and consultants. More money is not the only answer; technology and reform of the way we work must all be part of the mix. However, the labour-intensive nature of care will not fundamentally change, so we must look at workforce numbers as the priority. It is often said that failing to plan is the same as planning to fail. Some colleagues believe that a failure to plan is exactly that—a route to ending the NHS as we know it by showing that it fails. However, the Bill suggests an acceptance that a plan is needed, and work is under way. Hopefully that work is not being handed out to more consultants, of whom we see enough already.
Labour will support the amendment tabled by the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, which we hope will be pushed to a vote. I hope I have not been too effusive in my comments about him—I have a reputation to maintain after all—but I will refer to the excellent report done by his Committee on workforce burnout, which in many ways is the cornerstone of what we are debating. In its conclusion, the Committee said:
“The emergency that workforce burnout has become will not be solved without a total overhaul of the way the NHS does workforce planning. After the pandemic, which revealed so many critical staff shortages, the least we can do for staff is to show there is a long term solution to those shortages, ultimately the biggest driver of burnout. We may not be able to solve the issues around burnout overnight but we can at least give staff confidence that a long term solution is in place.
The way that the NHS does workforce planning is at best opaque and at worst responsible for the unacceptable pressure on the current workforce which existed even before the pandemic.
It is clear that workforce planning has been led by the funding envelope available to health and social care rather than by demand and the capacity required to service that demand. Furthermore, there is no accurate, public projection of what health and social care require in the workforce for the next five to ten years in each specialism. Without that level of detail, the shortages in the health and care workforce will endure, to the detriment of both the service provision and the staff who currently work in the sector. Annual, independent workforce projections would provide the NHS, social care and Government with the clarity required for long-term workforce planning.”
That conclusion shows what we are trying to achieve today. That is the nub of it: if not now, when? When will the Government finally accept the obvious that has been staring them in the face for years?
New clause 29 would require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a fully funded health and care workforce strategy to ensure that the numbers, skill and mix of healthcare staff are sufficient for the safe and effective delivery of services. It builds on other amendments, and seeks further assurances by putting patient safety and safe staffing levels at the heart of workforce planning, by setting out how the Government will be required to act to assess and rectify shortages. It seeks to ensure that the workforce will be on a sustainable footing in future. Patient safety should be our primary concern. We have the evidence base: when there are not enough registered nurses, mortality rates change and health outcomes are worse. I accept that the level of detail in the new clause is significant, but we consider that necessary to underscore the importance of setting out how this will be delivered.
New clause 12, which deals with the use of the title “nurse”, follows one that we tabled in Committee, on which we got sympathy and agreement from the Minister but were told that it was not quite good enough. Nevertheless, we will continue to support new clause 12, for the reasons we have already set out. Even if it does not get approval today, we hope that the Government will look into the issue and involve all those who need to be involved in trying to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
Currently, the title “registered nurse” is protected but “nurse” alone is not, meaning that anyone can legally call themselves a nurse. Under current legislation, someone could operate under the title “nurse” even if they have no nursing qualifications or experience, or indeed if they have previously been struck off. To protect the public, the title “nurse” should be limited to those who are registered with professional regulators, such as registered nurses and dental nurses, as is the case with titles such as “paramedic” and “physiotherapist”, which are limited to those on professional registers. The issue of the title “nurse” not being protected in law has long caused concern in the profession. There have been many examples where the use of the title appears to have been abused, and it is about time we put an end to that.
I turn to the issues covered by Government new clauses 36 to 48, which appear to respond to new clauses 21 and 22. New clause 21, in the name of Mr Holden, would prohibit virginity testing. This horrendous so-called procedure has absolutely no basis in science; instead, it is based entirely in misogyny. The Royal College of Midwives states:
“We are clear that virginity testing is a violation of women’s and girls’ human rights. In addition to being wholly indefensible and offensive, there is no medical benefit to virginity testing, and it is in any event not possible to conclude through an examination of the hymen whether or not a woman or girl is a virgin (even if such an examination was justifiable),” which, clearly, it is not. Similarly, the World Health Organisation has said that this is a practice of abuse.
The hon. Member for North West Durham has done a superb job in advocating for the end of this gross practice and, as with the new clause he tabled in Committee, he has assembled a strong cross-party coalition of support for new clause 21. We are therefore pleased to see that Government new clauses 36 to 48 seek to consign this practice to history.
I thank the hon. Member for giving way, and I apologise to the Minister for not being here at the very start; I was on a train back from a ministerial visit in my constituency. I would just like to pay tribute to some of the campaigners who are in the Public Gallery at the moment, particularly those from Karma Nirvana, the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, the Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Does the hon. Member agree that it is those campaigners and charities who have worked on this issue for a very long time who have really brought it to the fore—they have just been supported by some Members of this House—and that it is they who deserve the credit?
I thank the hon. Member for his intervention. I think he is being very modest, but he is absolutely right that these things do not happen by accident. It is often the hard work, over many years, of campaigners and campaign groups who being these issues to the fore and do the diligence and the hard work behind the scenes that leads us to the sort of outcome that we will hopefully get today—an end to this abhorrent practice.
On the hon. Member’s other amendment, new clause 22, we also want to see hymenoplasty ended. It has no medical benefit whatsoever. As the Minister said, there is currently an expert panel looking at the issue, and he is waiting on its recommendations. I think the outcome is in little doubt, to be frank. However, I wonder whether the Minister can give us an assurance that, should those recommendations turn out to be as we would expect, he will be able to act on them quickly and get something down in statute as soon as possible so that we do not miss the boat.
Turning to the amendments on the health services safety investigations body, much of the proposed legislation is the same as that proposed in the other place, and there were extensive debates on this matter in Committee. There are, however, issues that remain, which are covered by amendments we will be debating today. I can imagine the other place having quite a lot to say about some of these issues. In general, we support the move to the new body, but over time attention must be applied to some aspects of the way it will function in practice. Our major reservation is, yet again, with the involvement of the Secretary of State. Our amendment 74 would have the effect of leaving out clause 115, which is another clause that gives the Secretary of State extra powers to interfere.
Our general observation would be that there is far too much extra power going to the Secretary of State in the Bill anyway, but we are particularly concerned at the powers set out in clause 115, which give him what we consider to be wholly unnecessary powers to direct. It is pretty much a blank cheque to enable him to step in and interfere any time he likes as long as he considers that there has been a significant failure. Under subsection (2), the Secretary of State can direct the HSSIB in whatever manner he determines, which I would have said is about as far away from independence as we can get—until we get to subsection (4), which means the Secretary of State can also effectively step into the HSSIB’s shoes and undertake the duties himself. I can do no better than refer to the evidence Keith Conradi gave to the Public Bill Committee, when he said:
“Ultimately, we end up making recommendations to the Department of Health and Social Care, and in the future I would like to ensure that we have that complete freedom to be able to make recommendations wherever we think that they most fit.”––[Official Report, Health and Care Public Bill Committee,
We also support the amendments put forward by the spokesperson for the Scottish National party, Dr Whitford, which are important in preserving the principle and status of protected spaces. We feel it is important that they cannot be nibbled away at, as the Bill currently allows.
The purpose of amendment 57, which we also tabled in Committee, is simply to delete clause 127, which deals with the role of the Secretary of State in professional regulation. So far, we have had no convincing explanation of why the Secretary of State needs these powers. If there are no professions that he wishes to remove, we do not need the clause. If there are, he should say so, so we can have a debate now on whether it is appropriate to hand over those powers to him.
Finally, on new clause 1, I pay tribute to the all-party parliamentary group on beauty, aesthetics and wellbeing, whose work in this area has been influential in producing it. Many of the group’s members have put their name to it. As we know, cosmetic treatments can include a wide range of procedures aimed at enhancing or altering appearance. Many of those procedures are becoming increasingly popular and new clause 1 speaks to the well-articulated concern that non-medically and medically trained practitioners are performing treatments without being able to provide evidence of appropriate training, and without required standards of oversight and supervision.
I hope the Members moving new clause 1 will have the opportunity to speak to it, as there are far too many stories of people suffering horrific, life-changing injuries. There would undoubtedly be a saving to the NHS in reduced visits to accident and emergency and GPs to correct mistakes made by poorly trained and unregulated practitioners. We therefore think the new clause has value. Some of the impacts on the NHS from the lack of regulation include outbreaks of infection at a skin piercing premises, resulting in individuals being hospitalised; disfiguration and partial removal of an ear; second and third-degree burns from lasers and sunbeds; allergic reactions due to failures to carry out patch tests or medical assessments, which led to hospitalisation; and blindness in one eye caused by the incorrect administration of dermal filler.
New clause 1 seeks to put the protection of the public at the forefront by giving the Secretary of State power to bring into force a national licensing scheme for cosmetic procedures. Clearly, given that this is a departure from the wild west we face at the moment, we recognise that significant research and engagement with stakeholders will be needed to develop a scheme, as well as the provision of a practical and efficient system for people to become regulators and practitioners. If that does not make it on to the face of the Bill today, we hope this is an issue the Government will return to shortly.
I rise to speak in support of amendment 10 but, before I do, I also want to express strong support for amendments 40 to 43, tabled by Dr Whitford, which will make a big difference in making the new health services safety investigation body a success. I strongly encourage the Minister to listen to what she says later not just with the deference due to an experienced surgeon, but with the enthusiasm to follow a doctor’s advice, because what she says is extremely important.
I also thank Justin Madders for his generous comments about me. Having sat opposite him at the Dispatch Box on many an occasion, I realise how difficult they must have been for him to say. He must have wrestled with those thoughts for a long time, and I am delighted that he has been able to unburden himself today.
The hon. Gentleman was absolutely right to focus on burnout in the NHS workforce. All of us would agree that NHS and care staff have done a magnificent job looking after us and our families in the pandemic, but right now they are exhausted and daunted. They can see that A&E departments and GP surgeries are seeing record attendances. They can see nearly 6 million on waiting lists, which is more than one in 10 of the population. They also have the vaccine programme and covid patients.
I commend the right hon. Gentleman for amendment 10. With 2,700 vacant nursing posts in Northern Ireland, and 40,000 in the NHS as a whole, will the amendment offer more nursing bursaries, train nurses up to relieve the pressure, and provide a decent working environment?
I believe it will. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that issue, because medical training is relevant to the whole United Kingdom, not just one part of it. I hope the amendment will be beneficial to Northern Ireland as well.
If we put ourselves in the shoes of any frontline doctor, nurse or care worker, we would see that they are all completely realistic that this is not a problem that can be solved by next Monday. It takes a long time to train a doctor or nurse. All they have is one simple request: that they can be confident that we are training enough of them for the future, so that even if no immediate solution is in place, there is a long-term solution. That is the purpose of amendment 10. It simply requires the Government to publish every two years independently verified estimates of the number of people we should be training across health and care.
The Government have recognised the pressures on the NHS by giving generous amounts of extra funding. I commend the Government for doing that, but extra money without extra workforce will not solve the problems that we want to solve. At the moment, the NHS just cannot find the staff.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on amendment 10 and on how he has built such a coalition of support. Many of the challenges facing those with mental health concerns are because, as he says, there simply is not the workforce—it has hardly grown over the past decade. There are over 16,600 full-time equivalent vacancies and a waiting list of 1.5 million. His amendment, which would require a report every two years, is so important for ministerial accountability because the targets in the five year forward view have not been met, so we have no chance with the 15-year projection.
The hon. Lady gives a good example, because mental health is an area that we have all recently come to realise can be immensely beneficial to ourselves, our families and our constituents. However, while there has been explosive growth in demand, we have not had growth in the supply of people able to look after those with mental health issues. We can only do that with the kind of long-term planning that amendment 10 will make possible.
The royal colleges say that, as of today, there are shortages of 500 obstetricians, 1,400 anaesthetists, 1,900 radiologists, 2,00 A&E consultants, 2,000 GPs, 39,000 nurses and thousands of other allied health professionals. That is why this problem has become so acute.
The Minister has engaged thoughtfully with me on the issue on a number of occasions. He and I both know that there is some concern in the Government about the cost of training additional doctors and nurses. I want to take that concern head on. Yes, the amendment would lead to more doctors, nurses and professionals being trained. Yes, that would cost extra money. Yes, it would save the NHS even more money, because every additional doctor we train is an additional locum we do not need to employ. Locums are not only more expensive for the NHS, but less good for patients. Patients prefer to see the same doctor on every visit if they possibly can, which is much harder with a high number of temporary workers.
It is not just that patients prefer to see a doctor long term. There are safety issues when locums in acute specialties move from hospital to hospital, particularly if they are dealing with an acute case. They do not know where things are or who to phone; passwords and phone numbers change. There is a real safety issue with having too many locum staff in the very exposed acute services.
I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady, who knows about acute services. I also point to recent evidence from Norway that shows the same for general practice: patients who see the same GP over and over again go to A&E departments less than patients who see different GPs.
Dr Whitford is absolutely right about acute safety; I speak from personal experience. My right hon. Friend is right about general practice, but the issues are different. In general practice, the issue is chronic long-term care: patients need to know that practitioners have a view of their condition that spans a long period—sometimes generations. The issues are very different in acute and primary care, but they come to the same thing.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that part of the problem with the workforce is not recruitment, but retention, particularly the retention of senior doctors in their mid-50s? It pains me to say it in this consensual debate, but the root cause is the GP contract and the consultant contract brought in by the last Labour Government. Those contracts incentivise people—in my demographic, as it happens—to leave, potentially leaving the service short of 10% of their entire career.
My right hon. Friend is right that there are problems with the GP contract. I do not want to get into too many discussions about doctors’ contracts in this very consensual debate, but Conservative Members have to take responsibility for not having remedied the pensions anomaly, which gives people an incentive to retire much earlier than we would want. We have to address that issue.
Lots of people might reasonably ask whether I did enough to address the issues in the nearly six years that I was Health Secretary. The answer is that I set up five new medical schools and increased by 25% the number of doctors, nurses and midwives we train. However, that decision was taken five years ago and it takes seven years to train a doctor, so not a single extra doctor has yet joined the workforce as a result.
That is the nub of the problem: the number of doctors, nurses and other professionals we train depends on the priorities of the current Secretary of State and Chancellor. As a result, we have ended up with a very haphazard system that means that although we spend about the average in western Europe on health, as a proportion of GDP, we have one of the lowest numbers of doctors per head—lower than any European country except Sweden.
All Governments in the UK are expanding medical school places and trying to train more students, but that has led to a shortage of foundation places. In the first two years after a doctor graduates, they are not allowed to practise outwith a foundation job, and they can never practise if they do not go through a foundation job. In the summer, about 400 young graduates were still struggling to find a place. It took 19 years from my entering medical school to my becoming a consultant surgeon. We need to think not just about medical school, but about the whole pathway.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right. Medical school, the foundation years and, as my right hon. Friend Dr Murrison said, the retention of staff—all those things need to be built into long-term planning and baked into the system.
That long-term planning strikes a contrast, if I may say so, with some of the short-termism that we have seen recently. Even in the recent Budget and spending review, the budget for Health Education England, which funds the training of doctors in this country, was not settled. Although I think that the proposed merger with NHS England is probably the right thing to do, I fear it will mean that the budget is not settled for many more months, at precisely the moment when the workforce crisis is the biggest concern for the majority of people in the NHS.
My right hon. Friend is making an excellent speech, and I strongly support his amendment. Will he add to the list of factors that need to be considered in the future the requirement for many research scientists in medical sciences to be trained in medical schools first? If we want to expand and build on the excellence that we have there, it is not just a question of meeting the needs of the NHS workforce; we need to have extra people who can become the brilliant researchers and discoverers of new medicines in the future.
My right hon. Friend speaks about these issues with a great deal of knowledge, given his former ministerial and Select Committee roles, and he is absolutely right. I think that the big lesson from the pandemic, and indeed an issue that emerged in the report that our Committees jointly produced, is the way in which science can add value to clinical practice and clinical practice can add value to science.
One of the key workforces is, of course, in public health, where the aim is to shift the balance by increasing prevention so that we do not need all the doctors and nurses and other health professionals further down the road. The health visitor delivery programme led to a heavy stream of new health visitors, but it had other consequences. That is another reason why the right hon. Gentleman’s amendment is so important: we see rapid changes in the workforce which could have other consequences.
I thank the hon. Lady, who before entering this place spent her time campaigning to support NHS and care staff. She speaks with great experience, and I think that the fundamental point she makes is very important. Unless there is long-term strategic planning, when we have a priority such as the one we have at the moment of tackling the backlog, we will often make progress on that priority by sucking in staff from other areas, which then suffer. That is an unintended consequence which happened when I was Health Secretary, and I fear that it will happen again without a long-term strategic framework.
Amendment 10 has wide support. It is supported by 50 NHS organisations, including every royal college and the British Medical Association—an organisation which, to be honest, is not famous for supporting initiatives from me—and by six Select Committee Chairs and all the main political parties in this place. I am sure that the Government will ultimately accept it, because it is the right thing to do, but if they are intending to vote it down today, I would say to them that every month in which we delay putting this structure in place is a month when we are failing to give hope to NHS staff on the front line.
Let me end by quoting the Israeli politician Abba Eban, who said that
“men and nations behave wisely when they have exhausted all other alternatives.”
Let us prove him wrong today by supporting amendment 10.
I am delighted to follow the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, and, in this rather unnerving outbreak of consensus and good humour, to mirror his speech and add my support to his amendment on workforce planning.
It is important to remember that healthcare is not delivered by hospital buildings or fancy machines; it is delivered by people to people, which is why the most important asset in any health service is its workforce. As I pointed out in an earlier exchange with the right hon. Gentleman, we need a long-term view, because it takes a long time to train senor specialists. As I said to him, it took 19 years from my entering medical school to my becoming a consultant breast cancer surgeon. We will struggle to work out what specialties we might need in 20 years’ time, because medicine is evolving, but many aspects and many sectors of staff do not change. If we do not get even those right, we are constantly in a position of drought and thirst, and it is not possible for staff to evolve—to pick up new rules, to use new techniques and to develop new services.
Although this workforce strategy would apply only in England, I would encourage consultation with the Health Secretaries and the workforce bodies in the devolved nations, because junior doctors in particular tend to move around during their training. During the junior doctors’ strike, which Jeremy Hunt might remember rather painfully, I talked to students on the picket lines whom I had trained. People move around, and it is important that such a strategy does not end up just sucking staff out of the three devolved health services. Also, many aspects of medical training are controlled on a UK basis. Foundation places for new graduates are decided on a UK basis, for example, so it is important to take that wider view.
The workforce shortage is the biggest single challenge facing all four national health services across the UK. It has been exacerbated by the loss of EU staff after Brexit, with an almost 90% drop in EU nurses registering to come and work in the UK. Early retirements are being taken due to the Government’s pension tax changes, which, as has been highlighted, have not been sorted out and are resulting in senior doctors paying to go to work. There is only so long that they will continue to do that. Finally, there is the exhaustion of dealing with a pandemic for the past 18 months. This is why it is really important, when we talk about NHS recovery, to have a greater focus on staff wellbeing and on their recovery. There can be no recovery of the NHS without them. I am really disappointed to see how the clapping of last spring has turned to severe criticism and attacks directly from members of the public, from sectors of the media, and even from some Members in this place and members of the Government.
I shall now speak to my own amendments 40 to 43, which seek to tightly define the materials covered by the safe space protections as part of Health Service Safety Investigations Body investigations. The idea behind HSSIB was to learn from air accident investigations and to provide a confidential and secure safe space in which healthcare staff could be open and candid in discussing any patient safety incidents. I was on the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee, which was chaired by Sir Bernard Jenkin, and the recommendations of that cross-party—and indeed cross-House—Committee were very clear: evidence gathered under the safe space protocols should be protected and disclosed to third parties only in the most pressing situations, such as an ongoing risk to patient safety or criminality. Despite that, there are aspects of this Bill that could undermine the principle of the safe space, and that is what I am seeking to amend.
Amendment 40 would define he safe space materials much more tightly, because it seemed as though anything that HSSIB was using would be covered by the safe space protocol and that exemptions would then be made, whereas it makes much more sense to be very clear about the materials that are defined as protected materials. Therefore, all the original clinical information—medical notes, etc—would still be available to all the other bodies to enable them to carry out their investigations as they do now.
Amendment 43 would remove the ability of the Secretary of State to use regulation at a later date to authorise the wider disclosure of protected materials beyond the provision that is finally passed in this Bill. Amendment 42 would remove the provision allowing coroners to require disclosure of protected materials, as this has already led to calls for access by other health bodies and even freedom of information requests, as I highlighted in my earlier intervention. If a coroner uses safe space materials in their report, that report is public. The question is: how are they going to handle that so that the safe space materials are not further disclosed? It is critical to defend this. It is important to stress that HSSIB does not limit anyone else’s access to original materials, but nor should HSSIB be seen as an easy way for other bodies to avoid doing the legwork and carrying out their own investigations.
HSSIB will not apply in Scotland, where the Scottish patient safety programme is focused more on preventing patient safety issues in the first place. My interest is purely personal, as a surgeon. I experienced the impact of the Scottish patient safety programme when it was introduced to operating theatres in 2007. It cut post-operative deaths by 37% within two years. It has subsequently been rolled out to maternity, psychiatry, primary care and all the main sectors. It has not just reduced hospital mortality, but prevented morbidity—such as pressure sores, leg thrombosis or sepsis, which all in their own way cost the NHS a huge fortune.
I recognise the innovative approach and the potential impact of HSIB, but I fear that if NHS staff do not trust the confidentiality of the supposed safe space, they will not be candid in giving their opinions. Most patient safety incidents are caused either by wider issues such as staffing levels or communications, or by the failure to develop a system that stops an individual error resulting in patient harm. It is relatively rare for the person left holding the baby to be the person entirely to blame. That is the whole argument for shifting from blaming to learning.
Therefore, it is vital to ensure that the staff have that confidence. We will be asking them to talk about their part in an incident—what role did they play in something going wrong—if we are to understand how it could have been prevented. The principal aim is to ensure that shift from blaming to learning, to turn the NHS in England into a learning organisation. The end result of that would be greater patient safety. That is surely what all of us are trying to achieve.
I will speak mainly to new clause 1, but I cannot start without paying tribute to my hon. Friend Mr Holden for his work to ban virginity testing. It is an abhorrent practice and high time it was made illegal.
I speak to new clause 1 in the names of my right hon. Friend Caroline Nokes and Mr Jones, among others. The existing situation, absurdly, is that someone may walk into a clinic and easily and legally get a treatment that could blind them, and there is absolutely no regulation whatever. For some time, we have talked about fixing the issue, and my private Member’s Bill—now the Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Act 2021—which was passed with the support of many Members of the House, has been able to bring some regulation to this space. Under-18s are now able to get only non-cosmetic interventions, and that by legal practitioners alone.
For those over the age of 18, however, there is no protection. Save Face, a campaigning organisation, last year received 2,000 complaints from people. Those are complaints not about the clinics people were in being dirty, but practitioners being uninsured or unable to fix the problems created when patients were given injections or fillers. People had necrotic or rotting tissue, which individuals would have to pay for themselves to get fixed. It is unacceptable that we are in a situation where that can take place with no regulation by Government.
I am afraid that is a pattern over time, across many Governments, of issues that primarily affect women not having the attention that they deserve. I am hopeful that we make some progress today. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Southampton North on tabling her amendment.
The Health and Care Bill allows for
“a profession currently regulated to be removed from statutory regulation when the profession no longer requires regulation for the purpose of the protection of the public.”
Labour voted against the relevant clause in Committee, but we were defeated by the Government. I therefore tabled amendment 57, which would remove clause 127 from the Bill and ensure that a profession currently regulated cannot be removed from statutory regulation, and that statutory regulatory bodies cannot be abolished. I am grateful that the amendment received cross-party support.
The removal of a profession from regulation is deeply concerning because, once a profession is deregulated, we can expect the level of expertise in that field to decline over time, and along with that the status and pay of those carrying out those important roles. It also brings with it serious long-term implications for the health and safety of patients. In the White Paper that preceded the Bill, the Government stated:
“This is not about deregulation—we expect the vast majority of professionals such as doctors, nurses, dentists and paramedics will always be subject to statutory regulation. But this recognises that over time and with changing technology the risk profile of a given profession may change and while regulation may be necessary now to protect the public, this may not be the case in the future.”
It is notable that the Government only “expect” that the vast majority of professionals will be subject to statutory regulation, but they give no guarantee. The fact is, if the Bill passes, Ministers will be able change their mind at any point and make changes through secondary legislation.
The Government appear to be arguing that technological advances may change roles to such a degree that the high level of professional expertise that currently serves the NHS will no longer be needed. I will make two points about that. First, if the work of an NHS profession has changed to such a degree that regulation is no longer needed, I would argue that it is a different profession and needs a new job title. Secondly, when deploying new technology, there is always a need for professional staff with a high level of expertise and understanding of not only the functionality of that new technology, but its shortcomings. Technology has the power to improve productivity, but it should not be used as an excuse to deregulate professions.
It is important to consider where the impetus for that proposal may be coming from. The recent lobbying scandal certainly gives us a clue when we consider the number of MPs on the Government Benches with private interests in medical technology—I do not want to elaborate on that today, but to make the point. Certainly, big business is keen on deregulation, because it allows them to pay lower salaries to staff.
During a seminar on wellbeing, development, retention, and delivering the NHS people plan and a workforce fit for the future, a representative of Virgin Care said:
“We should have flexible working for all. We should consider what that means. We should embrace what that means. Both of those things really push what has been quite a traditional work model across the NHS. We need to be more modern. We need to have a think about how we rip up the old rule book. But change in an area that is very risk averse because the nature of the work we do is really tricky, so we need our leaders and our workforce to embrace trying things”.
That was an alarming statement for her to make. I think we would all agree that healthcare professionals’ understanding of risk and the importance of mitigating risk is incredibly important. It is always a matter of concern when business says that it wants to “rip up” the rule book on employment rights and pay.
Yesterday, in the Minister’s summing up, he said that
“the Bill does not privatise the NHS.”—[Official Report,
I have to say, however, that I disagree. ICBs—integrated care boards—will be able to delegate functions, including commissioning functions, down to provider collaboratives, and provider collaboratives can be made up of private companies. I do not understand what it is that the Minister does not understand about that.
Add to that the fact that the abolition of the national tariff will open up the opportunity for big business to undercut the NHS, this is a potent situation indeed, and one that will be exploited by big business if the Bill goes through. The late Kailash Chand, former honorary vice-president of the British Medical Association said:
“The core thrust of the new reforms is to deprofessionalise and down skill the practice of medicine in this country, so as to make staff more interchangeable, easier to fire, and services more biddable, and, above all, cheaper”.
The removal of professions from regulation is a part of that scenario he described.
I turn now to workforce planning. There is a workforce crisis in the NHS. In fact, that is probably an understatement. Earlier this year, I met members of the Royal College of Nursing in the north-west, who told me of the sheer exhaustion that they are experiencing because of staff shortages. I was struck by how, even at this point when they were describing how they are on their knees with exhaustion, their primary concern was patient safety. We owe it to them to address the matter. The British Medical Association highlighted:
“Burnout has led to significant numbers of medical professionals considering leaving the profession or reducing their working commitments”.
According to the latest figures, there are well over 90,000 full-time equivalent vacancies in England’s NHS providers. The best the Government can come up with is in this Bill is to require the Secretary of State to publish a report, at least once every five years, describing the system in place for assessing and meeting the workforce needs of the health service in England. That is woefully inadequate. The Royal College of Physicians says that this duty on the Secretary of State
“falls short of what is needed given the scale of the challenge facing the health and care system”.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is among those who have called for this duty to be strengthened in the Bill. I ask the Government to listen to the expertise of those bodies.
The Government’s plans to remove NHS professions from regulations is wholly unacceptable and it is particularly alarming at a time when there are such acute shortages of staff, right across NHS professions. We all value the NHS highly and respect the high level of professionalism in the service. Instead of looking to deregulate professions, the Government should be investing in the training of the next generation of professionals.
I draw the House’s attention to my interests, which are set out in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, and to the fact that my wife is an NHS GP and has been for the past 30 years.
I rise to support amendment 10, tabled by my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt, as it seems to be absolutely right. I cannot understand why the Minister, an extremely good Minister, is not obliging the Government to accept it in full. It is clear from what is being said across the House that my right hon. Friend has achieved an unexpected unity. Even brilliant junior hospital doctors who in the past have marched against some of his policies are four-square behind what he is saying today and the work his Committee is carrying out so brilliantly.
I wish to make three points about why the House and indeed the Government would be wise to support my right hon. Friend’s amendment today. The first is that, for reasons he has set out eloquently, as has Dr Whitford, who speaks on these matters for the Scottish National party, burnout in the NHS is an incredibly serious issue. The need for us to project how many people we are going to need in all the different disciplines in the health service has never been greater, and the workforce requirements have never been more uncertain. As has been so eloquently set out, the cost of that uncertainty is paid in locums, with all the difficulties and downsides that have been mentioned.
I wish to quote a note I have had from Dr Rahul Dubb, the lead doctor in Royal Sutton Coldfield. He successfully led the roll-out of the vaccinations in our town hall and he is extremely experienced. He says, “A greater understanding is needed as to why doctors are leaving the profession. It is clearly multi-factorial across the generations. One of the reasons includes pension rules. These penalise staff wanting to work more hours due to capped taxation rules, deterring senior staff from staying, and may lead to a significant exodus from the profession. In these circumstances, it is essential that far more effort is put into projecting future workforce numbers and how many are required to meet future need.” In my judgment, Dr Rahul Dubb is absolutely right in what he is saying.
The second reason is that the Government should listen carefully to what my right hon. Friend has said. During his time as Health Secretary—no one in the House has been so long at the crease and has as much experience as him—he significantly increased the number of doctors who will be trained. We were particularly pleased in Birmingham to see the additional work that Aston University has been able to do to bring those who might have felt themselves excluded from the medical profession into contention, so that they could go to university and achieve their ambition of qualifying as medics. Having that sort of analysis—the analysis that is behind his amendment—is right in securing value for money. I have been dismayed that when we had the measures to increase national insurance earlier this year—this was greatly to the credit of the Government for grasping a nettle that so many have not grasped before—those on the Treasury Bench were extraordinarily disinterested in checking that value for money for this additional taxpayer spend was achieved. When I suggested that we should account to our constituents through the Treasury, making certain that we understood where this £1.2 billion was going, the answer from those on the Treasury Bench was extremely lacklustre. Ensuring value for money and that we get these judgments right will save money and, for the reasons that have been set out, will make medicine and the treatment of our constituents that much safer. As my right hon. Friend set out, the whole sector is united behind this amendment, and the Government should hear that loud and clear.
The third and final reason why I have every intention of supporting my right hon. Friend in the Lobby this afternoon, and why I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to do likewise, is that in this country we have for far too long been pinching doctors from the developing world to make up for the shortfall that he is seeking to address. Long-term planning is vital to stop that. It is grossly irresponsible of this country to pinch doctors from the developing world at any stage, but particularly in the aftermath of a global pandemic, yet that is one of the things we continue to do. It is an abrogation of British international leadership to act in that way. I remind the House that not so long ago more doctors trained in Sierra Leone were practising medicine in Chicago than were practising medicine in Sierra Leone—we cannot ignore that.
For all three of those reasons, I urge the House to support my right hon. Friend and amendment 10 this afternoon.
I rise to speak in support of new clause 12, which stands in my name and those of many hon. Members across this House, on the protection of the title of “nurse”. The Government’s response to Alison Leary’s petition implies that we are on the same page on the issue of protecting the title. As the Minister said, this is not a party political thing; it is about the safety and protection of patients and the public. I hope that the Government will vote in favour of new clause 12 today, as it is long overdue and brings nurses into line with paramedics and physiotherapists in terms of the protection of titles.
It is shocking that anybody can call themselves a nurse, whether or not they have any qualifications or a first aid certificate—they may have no qualifications at all and they can call themselves a nurse. As we know, when someone calls themselves a nurse, that gives them a certain standing in society and people automatically think they know what they are doing. The nursing profession has some harrowing stories of parents taking advice from somebody who called themselves a nurse but was not one, and the tragic and devastating consequences. It is really important that we have the opportunity to put this right today—in fact it would be dangerous not to do so. Throughout the pandemic, people have been struck off as nurses, yet they are still using the title of “nurse” as they publicly deliver misleading and dangerous information about the pandemic. The public and patients have the right to know that the treatment and advice they receive is from a registered healthcare professional.
Many other countries protect the title of “nurse”. The protection of the title is supported by more than 70 nursing organisations, including the Queen’s Nursing Institute, the Institute of Health Visiting, charities, those representing the public using health and social care, Unison Health, Unite and the Royal College of Nursing and its Professional Nursing Committee.
I would like to put on record my support for nurses, particularly on Nursing Support Workers’ Day. Does my hon. Friend agree that the priority that nurses are asking for and that NHS staff are looking for is not restructuring, but investment in resources, a plan to address the staff shortages and retention struggles that the NHS has, and a clear strategy to address the winter waiting times and demands on services such as operations and GP services?
My hon. Friend makes a valid and valuable point. One way we can show our appreciation for nurses’ work is to protect their title, but we should not do that instead of addressing any of the issues she mentioned, along with ensuring that they receive a pay rise.
I thank the people who have petitioned for the change in my new clause for a number of years, including the former Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, who is no longer in his place but supports my new clause; the Labour Front-Bench team; Ann Keen; the chief nursing officer for England, Ruth May; Professor Mark Radford, the chief nurse at Health Education England; the previous chief nursing officer for Northern Ireland, Charlotte McArdle; Andrea Sutcliffe, Matthew McClelland and the Nursing and Midwifery Council; Mr Paul Trevatt; Professor June Girvin; Dr Crystal Oldman; Ms Shamim Donatta Ayiecho; Ms Leanne Patrick; Mr Gerry Bolger; Ms Catherine Eden; and the Florence Nightingale Foundation leadership scholars. The Government know that there is a lot of support for new clause 12 and I hope it passes today.
It is a pleasure to contribute to this debate and specifically to speak to new clause 1, tabled in my name and the names of Mr Jones and many other Members throughout the House. First, though, I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt for his incredibly important amendment on the workforce. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend Mr Holden for his crucial new clauses on virginity testing and hymenoplasty. As the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, I was pleased to be able to support those amendments and am delighted that the Government have introduced their own new clauses on those issues.
I wish to talk specifically about aesthetic non-surgical cosmetic procedures, which may seem quite trivial in comparison with the important matters I just referred to, but I vividly remember visiting a doctor in my constituency and talking to her about her experience when a patient came to her after she had had far too much lip filler placed into her lips by an unqualified and inexperience practitioner. The poor girl’s lips had, frankly, exploded, leaving her permanently scarred and with the prospect of many years of corrective surgery to try to rebuild her face. That is the stark reality.
Dawn Butler spoke about people being able to call themselves nurses when they are not nurses; aesthetic cosmetic practitioners can not only call themselves that but perform all sorts of procedures, some of which we would find it bizarre and disturbing to talk about and, indeed, at some of which we might look with absolute horror when they are reported on the internet and in the pages of national newspapers. I am talking about semi-permanent make-up and permanent tattooing, which can leave people permanently disfigured. The semi-permanent variety can fade to leave people with bizarre blue eyebrows that require many different procedures to be put back to normal. The list is long: we are talking about tattooing, botox and laser treatment—just imagine the damage that high-powered lasers can do to somebody’s skin when in unqualified, untrained hands.
Along with the damage to patients who trustingly go for such procedures, is it not also about the fact that when they go horrifically wrong, as sometimes they do, it is the NHS that ends up having to pick up the pieces?
I thank the hon. Lady for using exactly that term because she is right: it is about the NHS picking up the pieces and spending taxpayers’ money trying to correct something that should not have been done in the first place. If it is to be done to somebody, it should be done only by the qualified, trained and, as my new clause argues, licensed. I call today for some form of licensing or regulation. I absolutely accept that the Minister may view my new clause as deficient and not doing what he would want it to do. I appreciate the fact that he took the time to meet me and other Members last week to discuss the issue, because there are concerns throughout the House.
I pay particular tribute to my hon. Friend Laura Trott, who has done so much work on injectables in respect of under-18s and deserves absolute credit for getting her private Member’s Bill on to the statute book. That is amazing work and I really appreciate the fact that she has done it. Nevertheless, we need to do more and to go further.
I pay tribute to a number of my constituents who, following the work I did last year on the beauty industry, approached me on this issue. In particular, I pay tribute to Dr Chris Rennie of Romsey Medical Aesthetics, and to Dr Mitra Najafi, who has developed an incredible process by which plasma-rich platelets are extracted from a patient’s blood and injected back into them. It is a highly medicalised procedure and her big worry is that if it falls into the hands of somebody who is unregulated and unlicensed, it could be extremely dangerous indeed. Those with medical qualifications absolutely understand how they have to treat blood products; the stark reality is that those without do not.
I pay tribute to aestheticians—I struggle to say that word—such as Naomi O’Hara who came to me, as someone who practises, to call for regulation and licensing.
I pay tribute to a lady who is not my constituent but travelled to Romsey to see me: Tania Gough, who publishes the Image Directory. Her concern was that it is perfectly possible for someone to set themselves up in practice with next to no training whatsoever. She spoke to me of some of the horror stories that she herself had seen and some of the training courses she had gone on that she said were quite simply not worth the money she paid for them or the waste of her time. She said that certificates were issued at the end of such courses that gave the impression that people were qualified and trained when in fact they had had no more than a couple of hours—in one case it was 90 minutes—of training.
I also pay tribute to the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners; they have been incredibly supportive and helpful in the drafting of new clause 1. The Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners says:
“The creation of a national licensing scheme for practitioners of aesthetic non-surgical cosmetic procedures would ensure that all those who practise are competent and safe for members of the public.”
To my mind, that is the abiding word: safe. We want those who receive these sorts of treatments not to be putting themselves in harm’s way.
I look forward to the Minister’s response; I know he is listening on this issue. He can expect me not to push my new clause to a vote, but I very much hope he can show us a constructive way forward that may take us to the regime that we want to see.
I could speak about so many aspects of the Bill—such as the U-turn on the social care cap, the lack of action to include health inequalities, allowing private healthcare providers to access our NHS and, frankly, whether a reorganisation of the NHS at this time of crisis is what we need to support all our healthcare workers—but I am sure that colleagues will more eloquently cover a lot of those points in their contributions. As the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on cancer, I will restrict my comments to the amendment on the NHS workforce tabled by Jeremy Hunt.
Staffing is the biggest challenge facing the NHS. The Prime Minister claims to be building 40 new hospitals; if that ever happens, they will be of no use to anyone if there are not the doctors, nurses, radiotherapists, pharmacists, porters, cleaners and other staff to look after patients. As we have already heard, the NHS had 100,000 vacancies before the pandemic started. That, coupled with the intense strain and burnout that staff have suffered over the past 18 months, is causing a crisis in staffing that needs bold action now.
The Budget was a missed opportunity to invest in the people who make the NHS great, but amendment 10 would go some way to rectifying that. According to research from Macmillan, it is estimated that we need an extra 3,371 cancer nurse specialists by 2030—that is a doubling of the number of cancer nurses in just over eight years if we are to have any chance of providing the care and support that patients deserve. Macmillan has worked out that it would cost £174 million to train and develop specialist cancer nurses to plug the gap. Any increase in funding would be passed on to devolved Governments through Barnett consequentials. In the grand scheme of things, £124 million in England, £31 million in Scotland, £12 million in Wales and £7 million in Northern Ireland is not too much to ask of the Government—it is probably in the region of the amount of money spent on security for the Prime Minister’s trip to Peppa Pig World at the weekend.
As chair of the all-party group on cancer, I would like to extend my thanks to the other all-party groups and their chairs for their support on this issue. We have been appalled by the stories that we have heard from people living with cancer and going through treatment. Twenty five per cent. of people diagnosed with cancer in the past two years have not had specialist nursing support. Laura from North Yorkshire is living with incurable secondary breast cancer. When she spoke at the Breast Cancer Now event, she said:
“Being told that I had incurable secondary breast cancer felt like going into the abyss. What I need most is emotional and psychological support, yet I still don’t have a specialist nurse. I’ve had to find my own way through the dark days.”
I would like to put on record my heartfelt thanks to the cancer workforce who are doing all they can at this moment. They are crucial to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The shortages in the workforce have had a devastating effect on outcomes. People are now being diagnosed through visits to A&E with later stages of cancer, the consequences of which do not bear thinking about. The mental and physical health of the cancer workforce is suffering, too; they are at breaking point.
I have accompanied nurses to Downing Street to deliver a petition calling for the cancer workforce fund. I have spent time with Miriam Dibba Demba, a specialist gynaecology, oncology clinical nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, and Eamon O’Reilly, a Macmillan lead nurse for cancer and chemotherapy at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. That is when we know that something has to change for the future, because the care and support that cancer nurses provide has been a lifeline for so many living with cancer. I urge the Government to put in place the funding to ensure that this essential support can continue.
I rise to speak on amendment 10. I want to start by relaying a conversation that I had soon after being elected 11 years ago in Gloucester. I talked to the chief executive of a hospital trust—he has subsequently moved on—and asked him how many nurses a year we needed to replace those who have retired and resigned, and to cope with increasing demand, not just in the hospital trust but including district nurses and nurses to cover the whole panoply of our needs in the county of Gloucestershire. He explained that we needed roughly 400 a year at that time. I asked him how many we were training. He said that the University of the West of England trains around 120 graduates a year from its nursing outlet in Gloucester. How do we meet the gap, I asked, and he said, “Well, we advertise. We try to encourage people from London to look for a change in their lifestyle and we recruit from abroad.” I asked him where that got us to. He said, “Well, it increases the numbers, but it never gets us enough. We struggle with a permanent shortfall of recruitment.”
Over the next few years, I worked on three things. The first was to support the Government push to create nursing associates. The second was to encourage the University of Gloucestershire to become a nursing teaching university and to submit an application to get pilot project status for the nursing associates’ training. Both of those came to pass. They were a credit to the Government, a credit to the university and a credit to the Nursing and Midwifery Council that supported them. None the less, we were, and are, still short; that gap has not been closed.
One other thing that I have done recently is to support the close engagement with the Government of the Philippines, who have kindly allowed us to carry on recruiting nurses from the Philippines to the United Kingdom during the pandemic. I ask everyone here to join me in paying tribute to the roughly 35,000 nurses from the Philippines who have made such a difference to our NHS. All those things have helped, but anyone who has played the role that all of us in this House have over the past two years will know that the people problem is the greatest problem that we have.
I chaired, first every week and now every two or three weeks, a meeting between all the MPs in Gloucestershire, the heads of the NHS trusts, public health and the county council. Time and again, the same issue comes up in a slightly different way: it is about people. Yes, we could build extra wards. Yes, we could convert offices into wards. Yes, we could build bed capacity, but we do not have more people to look after the patients in them. Yes, we have plenty of spaces in care homes, but we need to be able to send people back to their home from hospital, because that is how they recover best, and we do not have enough domiciliary care workers.
We have gone round and round for the past 10 or 11 years on this issue of staff—doctors in primary care surgeries, nurses everywhere and domiciliary care workers. I do not believe that we can resolve this problem until we start planning for the needs in different parts of the country and then working out how we can provide the training, the skills and the recruitment of individuals to make that happen. Of course it will not be perfect. Of course disasters such as the pandemic will make a bad situation much worse. We recognise that, but until we start that process, I do not believe that things will change. For as long as I am MP for Gloucester, I am absolutely certain that I will be having the same conversations about human resources—the people who deliver the care and health that all the people in my constituency and across the county and country need and deserve. It is not the best use of MPs’ time to constantly have to sit down with our health professionals in local NHS trusts to work out how we are going to mind the gap. That whole process has to be started from higher up, in the Department of Health and Social Care.
Today, we have an amendment that has enormous support not just from the Select Committee that my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt chairs, but from outside this House from the royal colleges, the NHS trusts and many others beside. I am frustrated that the Government have so far not indicated whether they will accept the amendment. In their hearts, the Minister and his colleagues, all good people trying to do their best, recognise that this problem will have to be tackled. Perhaps part of the solution will be in the White Paper that we are all so eagerly waiting for and that we wish that we had been able to have a few days ago, before the votes last night, on which I supported the Government on the basis of trust. None the less, there comes a time when we have to say and vote for what we believe in. I do believe that we need this change and that the Government can and should do it, and I will vote for it.
I rise to support new clause 1, which stands in the name of Caroline Nokes, myself and 18 other right hon. and hon. Members from across the House. I first took an interest in this subject through a constituent, Dawn Knight, from Tanfield in my constituency. Dawn raised issues around the cosmetic surgery industry having been a victim of a particular hospital group. She has been a tireless campaigner in ensuring not only that victims get a voice, but that we press for more regulation.
I join others in paying tribute to the all-party group on beauty, aesthetics and wellbeing for its recent report and to my hon. Friends the Members for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) and for Bradford South (Judith Cummins) for their work on that report, which highlights what my hon. Friend Justin Madders called the “wild west”. That is exactly what it is: it is a wild west without any regulation. It is a multibillion-pound industry, which is not only putting people at risk, but costing the NHS money.
In April 2013, the Health Secretary at the time—Andrew Lansley, now Lord Lansley—commissioned Sir Bruce Keogh to carry out a review of the regulation of cosmetic surgery. The review came out not only when we were having problems in the sector itself, but when interest was heightened around Poly Implant Prothèse breast implants, which people will well remember. When the review concluded, it explicitly advised the Government to increase regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry to prevent unlicensed treatments and increase patient safety. The review stated that a person having a non-surgical procedure
“has no more protection and redress than someone buying a ballpoint pen or a toothbrush”,
“dermal fillers are a crisis waiting to happen.”
As the right hon. Member for Romsey and Southampton North said, that crisis has actually happened already.
I have been campaigning on this issue for a number of years, during which time I have gone through a succession of Health Ministers, all of whom have come back with two points. The first is, “We are going to implement the Keogh recommendations”. But because Ministers were too terrified previously to make any health legislation, they were reluctant to bring those recommendations forward in that way.
The only good news in the area has been private Member’s Bill of Laura Trott, the Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Act 2021. That legislation was tightly focused—as all private Member’s Bill have to be—and banned botox injections for under-18s. I congratulate the hon. Member on that work. However, any other regulations have been left unfinished. I have sheaves of letters from former Health Ministers saying, “The Keogh recommendations will be implemented”, but they have not been to date. If we do not do that in this Bill, when will it be done? I doubt that the Department will come forward with a Bill just to implement those recommendations; that is wishful thinking.
There is clearly no regulatory framework in the UK at present for those performing aesthetic non-surgical cosmetic treatments. The area is completely unregulated and lacks any national standards. There is no consumer protection, education, training or qualifications for those administering such treatments. As my hon. Friend Dawn Butler said, some people call themselves nurses with no qualifications whatever. There is a huge discrepancy between the standards and qualifications of the training of these people. The other side of the issue, to which I will turn in a minute, is the regulated system, which, frankly, is failing as well.
The right hon. Member for Romsey and Southampton North raised the issue of training. If hon. Members visit any website tonight, they will see huge adverts saying, “Become a dermal filler specialist: training and qualification online within half an hour”—even less time in some cases. The people offering such services have no qualifications whatever, because the qualifications are not worth the paper that they are written on, but these people start carrying out invasive procedures without anybody stopping them. They can do it in a kitchen, or in any area that has not been clinically cleaned and is not of a standard that we would expect for medical procedures. It is a multimillion-pound racket that includes both the people offering the training and those carrying out procedures. It is an increasing issue, which needs to be addressed.
We also need to address the issue of advertising. As I have said before in the House, the Advertising Standards Authority is frankly a complete waste of time. If hon. Members go on any website tonight, or even open the national newspapers, they will see people advertising these services—potentially dangerous procedures—without any qualifications. We might ask, “Why would people have these procedures?” Well, I suggest that everyone reads the Mental Health Foundation’s 2019 report on body image, which shows the increasing pressure on young people.
The right hon. Member for Romsey and Southampton North is correct that this issue mainly affects young women, but it is increasingly an issue for some young men. The pressure of factors such as advertising and photo enhancements lead people to think that there is the perfect individual, but—apart from you, Mr Deputy Speaker—I am not sure that there is. The foundation’s reports highlights the pressure that is put on young people, but particularly young women. If they look at prices for procedures, they end up going to people who are completely unqualified. It is a scandal that there is no legislation to prevent this.
The Keogh recommendations were published in 2013, Sir Bruce Keogh called for minimum standards. Well, there are no minimum standards or regulation of what should be going on, and that has to be put right. I agree with the right hon. Member for Romsey and Southampton North that if this new clause is not perfectly crafted—it may well not be—we still need to ensure that there is regulation. I thank the Minister for the meeting we had last week—it took longer to arrange than getting an audience with the Pope, but we finally got it—and for the positive noises he made during the meeting, but I felt that the civil servants were reluctant to have any more regulation. As I said, I can provide the Minister with letters written to me by his predecessors saying that they were recommending the implementation of the Keogh review recommendations; however, we still need to implement them. If the new clause is not acceptable today, we certainly have to ensure that a regulation system comes up during the passage of the Bill.
I want to touch on two other issues. The first is a point raised by Dr Whitford, about the cost to the NHS. Over the years, I have asked what the cost is to the NHS of putting these procedures right. As the right hon. Member for Romsey and Southampton North said, when things go wrong there is no insurance to cover the individuals and there is no putting things right; that falls to the NHS. I have continually asked whether local NHS trusts keep figures on this, but they do not.
In the cases that Dawn Knight has brought to me—I am sure that it is the same for cases mentioned by the right hon. Member for Romsey and Southampton North—the rectification process involves not only the mental health issues that result from these procedures, but the cost of putting them right, although in some sad cases they cannot be put right. That cost falls on the NHS and the taxpayer. There is no comeback at all on the people who sell the unsafe practices. I therefore tabled an amendment, which was not selected, on collecting data; we need that data.
Finally, I turn to the wider regulation of the sector and the surgical sector. Again, my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston said that the sector is a wild west. I always hear from Ministers, “Well, doctors are regulated by the GMC, and you’ve got the Care Quality Commission looking after the private hospitals where these procedures are taking place,” but those bodies are failing. It took my constituent Dawn Knight six years to get a doctor struck off. Self-regulation through the General Medical Council does not work any more. We need to change it if we are to ensure that the patient is not only protected, but can get redress.
The cosmetic surgery industry is a racket. Businesses that are basically marketing companies rather than medical companies can portray themselves as hospital doctors. The doctors are usually brought in—sometimes from abroad, mainly Europe—on a day basis to carry out procedures. In most cases, there is no insurance. The structure behind a lot of the companies is that they tend to have the same directors and go bust very quickly. First call usually goes to the taxman, to whom they owe huge amounts of money, but often they also owe the local authority rates that they have not paid for years. The poor patient has no redress, and those cases come back to the NHS, which picks up the tab for putting them right. My constituent Dawn Knight had surgery on her eyes, and I hate to think what it has cost the NHS to address her ongoing problems.
There are two aims on the non-surgical side, because we have to beef up the regulation as well. I say to the Minister that if we do not get that in this Bill, I am not sure where we are going to get it. If the amendment is not accepted for technical reasons, I and, I am sure, the right hon. Member for Romsey and Southampton North and others, would like to work with him to draft an amendment before the conclusion of the Bill that brings in the regulation that was promised. The evidence is behind it, as is the Keogh review. It will not only give people confidence that procedures have been carried out safely, but drive the cowboys out of the sector, so that they will not be able to practise and harm vulnerable people.
I have spoken in the House before about being involved in health policy for about 20 years. The same thing tends to happen every three or four years: the NHS says it needs more money, it needs more capacity and it needs a plan, and that is what we are doing again in the Bill. When we talk about more capacity, we mean not just more hospitals, more theatres and more diagnostics, but a bigger workforce. Thanks to this Government and the investment that has been made, I do not think anyone with any credibility can now say that the NHS does not have enough money. NHS England’s resource budget will rise to £162.6 billion in 2024-25—a 3.8% average annual real-terms increase. The Government also plan to spend a further £8 billion to tackle the elective backlog. This is the biggest ever catch-up programme in our NHS for elective surgery. Department of Health and Social Care capital spending will rise to £11.2 billion by 2024-25. I repeat: I do not think that anyone can say with any credibility that our NHS is now underfunded. We have the new diagnostic centres. We have the new pathways that should be adopted to increase NHS productivity. A long-term deal with the independent sector can ensure that we have the capacity to power through the elective backlogs—the hip and knee, hernia and cataract procedures that make up the vast majority of cases.
Of course, we need the nurses, the doctors and the consultants—the workforce—to carry out those procedures. This is a historical problem; it did not just happen overnight. All past Governments and, I dare say, past Secretaries of State for Health and Social Care have a degree of responsibility for this. As my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey said, there are an estimated 93,000 vacancies in our NHS—consultants, GPs, nurses and allied health professionals. I was proud to stand on a manifesto at the last election that pledged to increase the number of healthcare workers in our NHS, and I know that considerable progress has been made, but just as the Government are doing with social care by putting in place a plan that focuses, laser-like, on resolving some of the long-term issues we face in that sector, we need the same laser-like focus to deal with some of the challenges with our NHS workforce. Any changes we make to our NHS workforce, or any long-term plans, need to reflect the real needs of our NHS. That is incredibly important. Some sort of duty to report independent figures about how we will make up the workforce is a very sensible measure.
Many years ago, I worked with the British Society of Interventional Radiology. The proposals we made and the work that we called for then were about workforce. Some argued that a lot of people were reaching the end of their professional career and retiring and there was a lack of new people coming through, so ultimately this would have an impact on patient care—on the number of procedures that could be carried out. The same arguments are now being made across a number of disciplines. Since I became an MP, I have met the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Physicians, and the same arguments are being made there. It is sobering to think about these challenges, and that is why this laser-like focus has to be considered very carefully.
We have talked about overseas recruitment. I heard what my right hon. Friend Mr Mitchell, who is no longer in his place, said about that, and he made a very powerful argument. In some ways, we are going to have to use overseas recruitment to plug the gaps in our NHS, but there are other solutions. We have heard hon. Members talk about retention. I was alarmed and shocked by the number of healthcare professionals who—understandably—wish to work part-time because they are parents and they have childcare responsibilities. I understand that, but it is going to leave our NHS with recruitment challenges.
When I speak to clinicians—members of the Royal College of Surgeons and others—they talk to me about the ability to work independently and autonomously. Many clinicians want that ability, but do not feel that they have it. There is also the idea that they want to be part of something bigger than their own small team. It is not that they want to be part of this thing called the NHS and that they are all working towards that goal; it is more that, once we have come through the challenge of the pandemic—once we have got ourselves over that mountain—there is an even bigger mountain ahead of them, which is dealing with the elective backlog, where they feel that things never change. That is what I have been told, and those are very powerful things.
What are the solutions to this problem? Ministers need to think about how we can encourage our consultants, our GPs and our medical professionals to practise at the top of their licence. Speaking to medical professionals, I have been told alarming things. About 40% of a GP’s time is spent on sickness notes or providing medical records to insurance companies and other people. That is admin staff work. As valuable as those admin staff are, that is not what GPs and medical professionals went into their professions, and went to medical school for all that time, to do. It is absolutely right that that burden be lifted from our medical staff and placed elsewhere. Nurse-led prescribing has existed for quite some time, but we have not really had the push and the drive there that we should have. GPs should not be spending their time prescribing very simple things such as the pill. We can certainly be doing a lot better and working a lot more productively, as my hon. Friend Richard Fuller said. This is not about working harder; it is about working smarter.
Listening to the hon. Member’s speech, I think he is giving the game away in some ways, because what I am hearing, if I understand him correctly, is that he wants to see a core of healthcare provided by the NHS and then the more lucrative parts of the NHS—administration and other parts—siphoned off to the private sector, which is a model we have seen in the US and which this Bill makes so much easier.
I would ask the hon. Member to listen a bit more carefully, because nowhere have I said admin should be carried out by the private sector. I said that it should not be carried out by medical professionals. They did not go to medical school to work in admin; they went to medical school to treat the sick. That is what we want our medical professionals doing—operating at the very top of their licence.
I also do not want to see situations where untold numbers of consultants are spending just one day a week in the operating theatre. I understand that consultants need the opportunity to train junior colleagues and to continue their own professional development, but they should be operating in our theatres a lot more frequently than that.
I gently point out that surgeons do not just operate—we run clinics; we run endoscopy lists and colonoscopy lists—so it is not that they are only working one day a week. They investigate the patient before they operate, and that is one of the strengths of the system in the UK in comparison to other countries, where surgeons only operate and someone else has done the diagnostics.
I agree with the hon. Lady that surgeons work incredibly hard. What I am talking about is operating at the top of the licence and for our consultants to be able to do the things that we want them to do. She is absolutely right; they are doing vital work in other areas running clinics and so on, but ultimately what we have is an elective challenge, and we need to ensure that we spend as much time addressing that elective challenge.
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the challenges for primary care is that general practitioners have absorbed a great deal of the role of social advocacy in our society? People are trying to get a face-to-face GP appointment, and it is sometimes being suggested to them that such things as getting a fitness note or a letter to go to a school might be better served by someone else in the wider multi-disciplinary team. People are getting frustrated, because our messaging about how to use the health service and the different range of roles and responsibilities offered is sometimes getting a bit diluted.
My hon. Friend speaks with much experience and makes a powerful point. I think he would agree that that core admin function is not what he went into medicine to do. He went into medicine to treat patients. I am grateful that the Minister laid out some of the plans that the Government have to deal with this issue. It is right that we should be looking to the long term, and the 15-year framework for future workforce is to be welcomed, but there also needs to be a much more regular reporting mechanism attached to that to ensure that we as Members are informed, but more importantly the NHS is informed, about how that challenge is going. The integration between NHS England and Health Education England—aligning the delivery arm and the workforce capacity arm—is probably also the right thing to do.
I end with this point: the challenges around workforce will be addressed not only by employing and training more NHS staff, although that is crucial—that is why I have some sympathy for amendment 10—but by ensuring that we work more productively by asking clinicians to operate at the top of their licence. It is also about ensuring that the NHS works smarter. We have created organisations such as Getting It Right First Time and NICE and asked them to go away and do the hard work of coming up with the most cost-effective and efficient ways of delivering care. If we ask those organisations to come up with the pathways and the ways of doing these things, surely it is only right that the NHS then adopts them instead of sitting there and saying, “These things will not necessarily work here.” We ask experts to come up with the right way of performing procedures; I suggest we go ahead and adopt them.
I rise to speak in support of amendment 10, tabled by Jeremy Hunt, the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, because the amendment reflects the key issue facing the NHS and all our health and care services at this time: the workforce. Access to healthcare services is the No. 1 issue raised with me by constituents at the moment, and I know that concern is being echoed in other constituencies across the country.
People are experiencing the issue in many different ways. Some are struggling to get a GP appointment. I regularly speak to parents in great distress because of the lack of available help for their children’s mental health needs. The accident and emergency department at Kingston Hospital in my constituency has regularly had to ask patients to consider whether there are more appropriate sources of help for their needs. Patients waiting in the backlog of elective procedures are regularly having appointments rescheduled or cancelled. Ambulances do not always arrive when called.
The impacts are many and various, but when I speak to health service leaders in my local area, the answer is pretty much the same: there is a lack of available staff. Even in cases where lack of funds is not in itself a limiting factor, the lack of people with the relevant skills makes it impossible to fill all the vacancies they are able to pay for.
Many of these problems are covid-related. The current NHS waiting list is estimated to be over 6 million, and it is clear that much of that is because so many elective treatments were delayed during lockdown. Demand for mental health services has accelerated because of the impact of the lockdown, particularly on young people. Covid is still with us, of course, and workforces in every part of the economy are being impacted by the need for individuals to isolate when they have symptoms or test positive. Healthcare staff need to be more vigilant than the rest of us.
Many of these problems are also Brexit related. A lot of young Europeans decided to return to their home countries at the start of lockdown and have not since returned. Brexit has stymied our ability to recruit from the EU, shutting off an extremely important supply for all parts of the labour market, but the effect is being felt most markedly in health and social care, since it is having to manage the extraordinary demand of a global pandemic at the same time.
Many of these problems are also the result of a long-term failure to correctly predict or prepare for workforce demand. One of the huge advantages of a national health service is that it is possible to get clear data from right across the sector and to make appropriate plans and decisions. For some reason, that has not been done, and it is absolutely right that the Government should adopt amendment 10 to start to put that right.
I want to amplify a Backbench Business debate that I was able to bring to this Chamber a few weeks ago, in partnership with Dame Andrea Leadsom and Catherine McKinnell. It was on the subject of giving every baby the best start in life, and it was the firm view of all who attended that debate that the health visiting workforce needs to be substantially boosted to enable all new parents to receive a home visit from a trained healthcare professional. During the course of that debate, we heard of the many ways in which a health visiting workforce can support new families and the critical role they play in supporting babies and their families. One estimate is that the cost of poor parental mental health in the first year of life is more than £8 billion. It is clear that the cost of boosting our health visiting workforce would more than pay for itself in a very short time.
I also want to reflect briefly on a conversation I had with a constituent in the street in Richmond town centre on Saturday. Despite having two degrees, she was working in the care sector, and she was talking to me about her terms and conditions of work. She is employed by an agency and is not allowed to engage with any other agency. She is on a zero-hours contract, so she has to sit at home and wait to hear how many hours she might be required to work the following week. For various reasons that suits her, but I feel that it underpins the recruitment crisis we are experiencing in our social care sector, because that is no way to retain skilled and committed staff.
Does the hon. Lady agree that it is not just about levels of pay and uncertainty for those individuals, but ensuring that we nationally accredit the qualifications of those individuals and address the career paths that do not exist in those sectors at the moment?
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and that is the point I want to make: we need to boost the status of our care home staff and improve their terms and conditions. We need to improve their pay. This lady who I spoke to on Saturday was telling me that she gets paid for the hours she spends in people’s homes, but not the time spent travelling in between. It is clear to me that the crisis of staffing we are experiencing in our care sector—I think every one of us as MPs is hearing about it regularly from our constituents, who are at the sharp end of that—is as much about workforce planning and improving terms and conditions. The Government needs to give that the most urgent attention, and amendment 10 would go some way to resolving that, although it will not resolve it entirely.
I know that Ministers will push back against the cost of boosting the workforce in all areas of the NHS, but they must surely realise the cost of failing to do so. The right hon. Member for South West Surrey. along with Dr Whitford, spoke about the cost of locum resource in the NHS. It is not just about the direct cost of locums or of worsening health outcomes as people wait longer for treatment; it is also about the lost productivity of days off sick, the cost of poor mental health as lives are put on hold and, as has been mentioned many times, the cost of exhausted and demoralised staff who are overwhelmed by the demands on the NHS. We cannot afford to continue to fail to effectively plan our healthcare workforce.
I am also very happy to support the amendments tabled by Mr Holden on virginity testing and hymenoplasty. I am delighted that the Government are adopting the provisions on virginity testing. We still have much to do to make this country a safe place for women and girls, but all progress is to be welcomed, and I am very glad that this opportunity to bring to an end the degrading practice of virginity testing has not been lost. I congratulate the hon. Member for North West Durham on all the work he has done and, although they may have left the Chamber, the representatives of the other charities referred to earlier. I hope in due course we will see the provisions for hymenoplasty as well, when the review has concluded.
I have three people indicating that they wish to speak. I ask people to make really short contributions, because I want to give the Minister six minutes to wind up and we will then go into the votes at half past.
I will be brief, Mr Deputy Speaker. I should declare that I am married to a doctor.
Staff are the No. 1 priority for the health service, and have been historically for this Government, so I will support the Government today, but somewhat through gritted teeth. I implore the Minister to include a few things in his 15-year review. I ask him to engage with the feeling of staff, which we have all heard about: if there are fundamentally not enough staff within the system, it is impossible for them to feel that they can do the job they went into medicine to do as well as they possibly can. I know his plans in this 15-year review will address some of that, but I hope he will also address the fact that there is a huge role to play for technology and for the increasing integration between health and social care. If more patients are stuck in hospitals because they cannot be sent on to the social care system, then we need more doctors to staff those hospitals.
I hope the Minister will consider those multiple facets in the review, and also consider that perhaps more important than anything else is how we retain staff. Even if we are putting more and more people into the beginning of a career pipeline, we will never be able to fill up that pipeline sufficiently if people, whether for pension-related reasons or a whole host of other reasons, are leaving more rapidly than we currently imagine they will in the planning.
That retention aspect has to be a hugely important part of the review. I hope that the possibility of addressing all those multiple factors will be core to what the Minister has been talking about. As others have said, I also hope he will be as transparent as possible within that, and that he or his Department will come to the House to make those plans transparent. Fifteen years is good, and transcends the political horizon that so often derails good intentions for the NHS, but the more transparent we can be, and the more support we can give to recruitment, retention, technology, social care and a host of other issues, the less my teeth will be gritted as I support the Government today.
I welcome what the Government are doing today in new clauses 36 to 48. There has been a huge campaign for a long time by people from so many different organisations, particularly Natasha Rattu of Karma Nirvana, Sara Browne and Payzee Mahmood from IKWRO, Halaleh Taheri and Natasha Feroze at the Middle Eastern Women and Society Organisation, Rosie Walworth and Zoe Russell from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, who have worked closely with me over the past few months, Janet Fyle from the Royal College of Midwives, barristers Dr Charlotte Proudman and Naomi Wiseman and consultant gynaecologist Dr Ashfaq Khan, who did some excellent briefing for us in earlier stages of the process. I also thank Adam Mellows-Facer and Huw Yardley from the Public Bill Office, who did some excellent work with my office manager, Robbie Lammas, who has kept going on this throughout.
I am pleased that the Government are coming forward with the amendments on virginity testing today. I particularly welcome the fact that they are UK-wide and have had support from scores of Members, including Sarah Olney, the former Health Secretary, my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt, and many other hon. Members from across the House who I can see here today.
It is excellent that the Government have listened so much and responded so thoroughly. I would like to hear the Minister talk about new clause 22, which I tabled today, on hymenoplasty. I know we are on Report, but I want his assurance that, if all goes well, we should see those amendments to this Bill in the House of Peers before too long. It is vital that banning hymenoplasty and banning virginity testing go hand in hand.
I rise to speak on amendment 10 on workforce planning, in the name of my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt. However, surely the Government’s urgent priority is to look at effective ways to attract back into the NHS all those consultants, nurses and social care workers who have left, and to find any way they can to bring back that experience and expertise.
With your permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to talk about some lived experience. Just last Friday, I came across a lady who had fallen over and clearly injured herself. I phoned 999, knowing full well that I would be entering a system under severe stress and pressure. I confess that, as it happened. I put the phone down, because the priority for me was to ensure that she was safe, warm and comfortable.
The ambulance service called me back and told me it would be a wait of several hours. I knew that that was caused by the pressure on the ambulance service and on A&E and the subsequent pressure on beds, hindering the effective and timely treatment of people who go to hospital. The pressure on admission to A&E also affects surgery. All that pressure goes down to one place in Cornwall, and Cornwall will not be unique: delayed transfers of care.
We have been in this place before: in 2016, a system-wide review of the situation in Cornwall found far too many people who would be better off in the community, being looked after in homes or care homes, but were stuck in hospital. In Cornwall today I understand the figure is more than 100 people in that exact situation. The pressure on the whole system is largely to do with those delayed transfers of care. While much has been said about the workforce planning for the NHS, I will quickly touch on workforce planning for the care workforce.
The emphasis on workforce planning should transform the current state of the care workforce, leading to better support, better training, better pay and better status. I am hopeful that the White Paper will address that, as it is the only way to effectively ease the pressure on acute NHS settings. There is an urgent need to understand and address the pressure on care staff, GP practices and community care across the board.
Maybe I should have said this at the beginning, but I chair the all-party parliamentary group on diabetes. Several years ago, we found that, in the whole of the south-west, training for podiatry was coming to an end because of a lack of funding and the way it was delivered across the region. That had an immediate impact on community care and how people could be cared for and enabled to live with and manage their condition, which ultimately puts more pressure on urgent care.
As we look at workforce planning and how to understand exactly what is needed, I particularly thank the NHS staff who have worked so hard, especially those I met at the beginning of the year, who, as they delivered the vaccine roll-out, told me they were doing it for the national effort. Workforce planning and the commitment to ensuring that we have the workforce where they are needed, with the skills they need, is the best way to reward our NHS workforce.
This is a little more generous than the six minutes I feared I might have to work with, Mr Deputy Speaker.
If I may, I will address each set or theme of amendments in turn. First, I am grateful to my hon. Friend Mr Holden for the work he has done. He rightly highlights that in a sense he is but the voice of the campaigners who have worked so hard on this issue over a very long period. I am pleased that today, while it is not his exact amendment, we have been able to work together to table an amendment that I hope will command cross-party support across the House to deliver on what he has campaigned so effectively for.
I have known my hon. Friend a very long time, so I should not have been surprised by the persistence with which he beat a path to my door to seek to secure agreement on exactly this policy issue.
Can I just say that the Minister has been absolutely superb in engaging throughout this process? I would like to thank the shadow team as well, who in Committee and today—and throughout—have shown real conviction towards this end. I thank the Minister and his team and also the shadow team for all they have done.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who I think covered both bases there very eloquently. He makes an important point on this issue. The change will make a real difference to people’s lives, so I commend him for his work.
New clause 1 was tabled by my right hon. Friend Caroline Nokes and would give the Secretary of State the power to introduce a licensing regime for aesthetic non-surgical cosmetic procedures, making it an offence for someone to practise without a licence. I thank her for bringing this to the House today. In that context, I also pay tribute to Mr Jones; my hon. Friend Jackie Doyle-Price, who has taken a very close interest in the issue; and of course my hon. Friend Laura Trott not only for taking a close interest in the issue, but for her success, with her private Member’s Bill, in moving the dial further forward on the issue more broadly.
As I said in Committee, I entirely understand the intention behind the amendment and that a strong case has been made for further regulation in this area. I and the Department are keen to work with stakeholders, including Members of this House on both sides, to see whether we can take this forward in the most appropriate way and clarify the scope of any further regulation. We are happy—we had a very positive meeting, which was alluded to—and I hope that we will be able to continue to explore the issue with hon. and right hon. Members.
In this context, I also commend the all-party parliamentary group on beauty, aesthetics and wellbeing for its important work. Its inquiry highlights the huge range of non-surgical cosmetic procedures available, which vary in their level of complexity and invasiveness. We are carefully considering the findings of that report, including, in that context, its recommendation for a licensing system. We look forward to reporting our conclusions from that work early in 2022. I look forward to working with my right hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Southampton North and others on that.
Amendment 57 was tabled by Margaret Greenwood. I can entirely understand where she is coming from—that the professions protected in law must be the right ones, with the right regulatory oversight, recognising that regulation is there for safety. We believe there is no immediate case to change the professions that are regulated, but we will consider whether any new groups of workers should be brought into statutory regulation, and the power to remove professions from regulations would only be used where regulation is no longer required for the protection of the public. For these reasons, we think the approach we are adopting is the right one, but I always reflect on what she says. Even when I do not entirely agree with all of it, I always reflect carefully because she has taken a long-standing interest in these issues.
Dawn Butler raised the issue of the title of “nurse” and protection for it. The title “registered nurse” is protected in law. Currently —she is right—the title “nurse” is not protected, given that it is used across multiple professions, including dental nurses, school nurses, veterinary nurses and similar. As has been pointed out by the interim chief nursing officer for Scotland, any change would need careful consideration of the impact on other groups currently using the title “nurse” outside healthcare settings.
I can see the benefit in providing reassurance and clarity for both patients and professionals. I would also note that the protection of a title is only one part of the regulatory system and the complexities associated with that. I understand where the hon. Member is coming from with her new clause 12. What I would say is that any subsequent change could form part of the legislative reform programme for the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which will be taken forward by secondary legislation made under section 60 of the Health Act 1999. But we do not feel we are able to accept her new clause, as drafted at the moment, because we do not feel that it addresses those fundamental challenges.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady, but we have had the Committee. We are now at the stage where we have been through this, and I therefore do not think it would be appropriate to pass an amendment that we thought was flawed in its drafting. I can understand the intent behind it, and I have said that I will continue to reflect on that, but we do not feel we can support the amendment as drafted.
On amendment 10 and new clause 28, hon. and right hon. Members who have spoken to those amendments from both sides of the House have raised something that I think is of huge importance to all Members of this House. As I said in my opening remarks, we all recognise that technology, kit and buildings are all wonderful if we invest in them, but they are nothing without the people—the professionals—who know how to care, are able to care and are able to use that kit to provide the best possible outcomes for our constituents. The workforce are in a sense the beating heart of our NHS, and it is important that I again recognise and join the Opposition in paying tribute to the work undertaken by the workforce.
I appreciate entirely the strongly held, sincerely held and, as ever with my right hon. Friend Jeremy Hunt, well-informed views that he brings to this debate, based on his extensive experience. I would extend that to the shadow Minister, Justin Madders, in a spirit of bipartisan cordiality. I hope I have been able to help to reassure colleagues just how seriously we take this issues. Hon. and right hon. Members have been right to raise the issue. We reflect very carefully on it. We have already, as I have said, not only set out plans for elective recovery and further reforms to improve recruitment and support for our workforce, but announced yesterday the merger of Health Education England with NHS England, which we believe is an important next step in making sure that workforce needs can be considered in the round. The other key element is, as I say, the development, commissioned in July, of a robust, long-term—15-year—strategic framework for the health and social care workforce.
We are in no way complacent or resting on our laurels in the case of the workforce. Despite the significant progress we have made in recruiting more nurses and more doctors, there is clearly a lot more to do. We recognise that, and I believe it was a point well made by my hon. Friend Matt Warman. He declared his interest. I do not know whether I need to, but his wife is a friend of mine; I should probably declare that too. He made some important points, a key point being that this is not just about projections for recruitment. It is absolutely right that we are focused, as we are, on the retention of our existing highly trained, highly skilled and highly experienced workforce. We look at what measures we can continue to take to address those challenges.
There is the need to recognise that that workforce—the workforce who are delivering on elective recovery and who are delivering on tackling those waiting lists—are the same people who have been working flat out throughout this pandemic, and emotionally and physically need the space and time to be able to recover. We recognise that and take it extremely seriously. I think it was my hon. Friend Paul Bristow—he has jumped around the Chamber slightly in taking his seat—who made the point about reporting and monitoring mechanisms to know how the framework is working and that we are doing the right thing. While we are not, I have to say, fully convinced by the case made by my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey, I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough about that. I will continue to reflect very carefully on that, on what my right hon. Friend has tabled and on the points he made in debate and in his many meetings with me and other ministerial colleagues.
In the minute or so I have left, I want to briefly touch on the HSSIB amendments, which I know are important, particularly to Dr Whitford, but I think she reflects broader opinion in this House. As discussed in Committee, the definition given in clause 108(2) is intentionally broad. HSSIB will be carrying out a range of investigations, and we believe it would be impossible to prospectively identify the material that will be gathered and should therefore be protected by safe space. Similarly, while I take the point she makes about senior coroners and coroners’ involvement, we believe that we have struck the right balance in not extending the safe space exemptions more widely, but recognising the unique status that those judicial office holders have.
I hope I have been able to cover the main themes of the amendments tabled in this group. I hope I have been able to reassure hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of this House, particularly in respect of the workforce, just how seriously Her Majesty’s Government take that issue, and the points genuinely and sincerely made by Members on both sides of the House in that context.
Question put and agreed to.
New clause 36 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.