Report (6th Day)

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 8th March 2012.

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Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), Lords Spokesperson (Department for International Development) 5:00 pm, 8th March 2012

I am very sorry if that is the case. I would hope that we would be able to have other such meetings. As these arrangements are taken forward, it would be extremely useful to have people's engagement. I was extremely glad that, even in such a clash, the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler, and her noble friend were there.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, should have received the letter about the amendments, but I gather that he thought he had not. A letter and briefing notes were sent to all Peers when the amendments were tabled and a full narrative of local healthwatch policy has been published on the Department of Health website. If the noble Lord has not seen the letter then I will feed that into the department to make sure that he receives this information so that he has it at his fingertips when he is contacted late at night by people who email him with concerns.

As I have mentioned before, it is very important that the local healthwatch seeks out views right across the area. It is an important factor in this arrangement that the local healthwatch will have a seat on the health and well-being board. I hope that that will help to reassure people of the influence of local healthwatch.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, talked about privatisation by so-called social enterprises, or he flagged that up as a concern. I emphasise that the Government are huge fans of social enterprises, which perform a range of roles across the NHS. Social enterprises such as Turning Point are, of course, extremely valuable. This is not about privatisation or competition, as I feel we have made very clear.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, also referred to my noble friend Lord Howe. My noble friend's concern in 2007 was that local LINks should have at least a basic structure of governance. That is precisely the concern that has led us to propose that local healthwatches should be social enterprises. The question of governance is quite separate from the question of whether or not an organisation should be statutory. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Harris, can enter dialogue with my noble friend Lord Howe on all of that in due course.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, also asked about the possibility of there being more than one local healthwatch. Only one local healthwatch will be permitted for each local authority area. Each local authority will be able to make only one contract. If the local healthwatch wishes to subcontract some of its functions it can do so if the local authority permits, but the functions would still remain the responsibility of the local healthwatch. I hope that that clarifies the position.