Committee (5th Day)

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 14th November 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Labour 4:15 pm, 14th November 2011

My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 47B, which to some extent overlaps with Amendment 47A, which the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, has moved so eloquently. I fully support the remarks that he made, particularly in relation to medical deaneries.

I want to start from the position in which we find ourselves. This Bill contains a major reorganisation, which affects 1.4 million employees. As David Nicholson has said, the size of this reorganisation can be seen from space. I can remember making these rather trite speeches as a Minister about the NHS being the largest organisation alongside Indian Railways and the Red Army. Ministers before me made the same speeches just to emphasise the sheer scale of the NHS and the number of employees working in it. Therefore, it seems extraordinary that the Government could have considered for a long time reorganising this organisation in such a way without taking into account the education and training of probably the most labour-intensive and largest workforce in the country. It is not surprising that, in these circumstances, people in the NHS are very concerned about what is going to happen to education and training in this brave new world that the Government are taking us into.

That is why some of us want to move amendments that go a good deal further than did the Government's amendment in this area, which seemed to me not unlike those Russian dolls-once you open one doll, another is inside and a smaller doll is inside that-in its endless reference back to other bits of legislation. We need something much clearer than that if we are to reassure the people working in the NHS that education and training are going to be safeguarded and looked after in a period of major disruption to the way we run our health service.

Amendment 47B imposes a clear duty on the Secretary of State,

"to provide or secure the provision of an effective system for the planning and delivery of education and training of a workforce of sufficient size ... to discharge his duties under this Act".

That seems to me to be the focus that we should have in our discussions in this particular area. It tries to produce a clearer duty on the Secretary of State than the Government's Amendment 43, but goes further by requiring the establishment of a new body, Health Education England, to oversee, supervise and manage the current functions and national budget relating to multidisciplinary training.

As we take the Bill through this House, it is not enough simply to say, "Oh dear, we are waiting on the Future Forum". I am sure that the Future Forum will have something good to say, but before this Bill leaves this House as an Act we need to produce much more certainty about how this service is to be continued and how the money is to be safeguarded. The size of the budget involved is considerable-somewhere in excess of £5 billion a year. Much of that money is looked after and spent by the rather maligned strategic health authorities, which will disappear in 2013 as I understand it. That money passes through them to the end-users of the money that deliver education and training. There is great uncertainty and concern about how national and regional planning of education and training, including the medical deaneries, will actually work, how they will be funded and how the current budget will be safeguarded.

I recognise that employers need to play a full part in education and training, as the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, has said, but I have seen the briefing by NHS Employers on this issue. That briefing makes pretty clear that there is huge uncertainty below the national level about how education and training will be managed when the strategic health authorities are abolished in 2013. People seem to be fumbling their way around, searching for a way forward when the SHAs go. We know that some activities cannot be left to local employers alone. A prime example of this is the specialist training that has to go on in securing placements for younger doctors coming through the early stages of their training and needing to have specialist postings to ensure that they can progress along the specialist route to fill the consultant posts of tomorrow.

At the national level we need to achieve greater clarity on how the Secretary of State will discharge his responsibilities in relation to education and training. The Government seem to think that this can be left to legislation in the next Session but as far as I can see they can give no assurances, other than resting on good will and the Future Forum, to say clearly what this system would encompass, what it would look like and how it would work. The more sceptical among us have doubts about whether the Government will have the appetite for another Health and Social Care Bill in the next Session. If one was Prime Minister for a day, it would not be surprising to doubt whether one would entrust another Bill in this territory to the team that gave us this Bill. That thought must have occurred to the Prime Minister at some time in his busy life.

In closing, I would like to say a few words about the third subsection in this amendment. This is in response to the concerns that have been expressed that many current functions and their budgets will be passed to the national Commissioning Board almost by default, and at the very time when the crisis on meeting the Nicholson challenge of saving £20 billion in four years will be moving to crunch time. I suppose there is a kind of poetic justice that David Nicholson should be asked to consider his own challenge and deal with it as chief executive of the national Commissioning Board, but people are concerned that temptation should not be put in his way in the form of the £5 billion or so of the budget for education and training work of the NHS. To help him resist that temptation, should it arise, this amendment includes a formula for preserving the education and training budget. It may not be the perfect formula-I am sure that noble Lords across the House would be willing to discuss a better one-but some kind of formula and ring-fencing which protect the budget for education and training is a sine qua non if we are to carry with us staff up and down the country working in the NHS whom we expect to continue to deliver a highly effective NHS at a time of great organisational change.

Of course, the Minister may be able to reassure us all and give us some guarantees, and I look forward to hearing them. These need to be guarantees about how the amount currently spent on education and training will be safeguarded. We will also want to know: what is to happen to the money when the SHAs are abolished? What division of responsibility between Health Education England and employers are the Government planning? Do the Government envisage a role in this sphere for the national Commissioning Board? I hope the Minister will not simply say that the Government are waiting for the Future Forum to report.