Health and Social Care Bill — Report (3rd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:29 pm on 27th February 2012.

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Photo of Baroness Williams of Crosby Baroness Williams of Crosby Liberal Democrat 8:29 pm, 27th February 2012

My Lords, owing to the need to make progress I shall speak briefly, but my noble friend Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames will be speaking in greater detail about the amendment.

It is short, perhaps deceptively short, but it has real significance and is related in this group specifically to Amendment 94A. The government amendments respond to aspects of these amendments, too. Amendments 49A and 94A set at the very centre of the Bill, which has the full support of all of us who want to see the NHS thrive, that the interests of patients should be paramount. The importance of that phrase is that in every single aspect of what we try to do, it shall always be the case that this is the way in which we think-whether it is how CCGs operate or how foundation trust hospitals operate. This has emerged in our debates increasingly as the central concept-the one to which we should always refer back. That will give us the guiding light that we need for the Bill.

It is significant because, in many cases, patients can be very vulnerable. They can be vulnerable through lack of information and in some cases by not being consulted. They can be vulnerable, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, has mentioned, through the lack of advocacy by people who understand the basis of the choices they have to make. This phrase about the significance and the importance of patients' interests being paramount therefore also affects a recognition that where patients are vulnerable they need the help of counsellors, advisers and in some cases advocates, so the concept behind this covers those areas as well.

I want also to point out briefly that government Amendment 56 is helpful in spelling out the matters on which patients should be particularly consulted. I will not repeat them but the amendment is helpful in setting out very clearly issues of treatment and the way in which patients should be offered different forms of treatment and then to make choices among them.

I do not intend to keep the House. I shall conclude my remarks. Whatever side of the House we may be on, I hope very much that the concept of the paramountcy of patient interest will be something that all of us can support, understand and advocate with respect to the future of health services. I beg to move.