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Health Service Safety Investigations Bill [HL] - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:04 pm on 29th October 2019.

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Photo of Lord Scriven Lord Scriven Liberal Democrat 5:04 pm, 29th October 2019

My Lords, I too welcome the Bill. Like many noble Lords who have spoken before me, I think that the concept of keeping people safe by having a safer health service system, and implementing learning to improve safety, is to be welcomed. However, I wish to raise some issues within the Bill. Noble Lords have already raised some of them but there are one or two in particular which have not been raised so far, and which I want to bring to the attention of the Minister.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, has already stated clearly that the powers in the Bill are quite wide. In some respects, they make Henry VIII powers look quite narrow. The Bill is constructed in a way that allows the new organisation not only to set its own homework but to do it, then to mark it and be the sole judge of whether it was the right homework in the first place. We therefore need to look at the Air Accidents Investigation Branch and how the Civil Aviation Act 1982 gives a framework for independent investigation, rather than it being more or less carte blanche. You cannot have independence with such a total lack of framework. As we go through the Bill, in the great time that will be available to us in Committee, we should look at whether the framework needs to be a little narrower rather than having such broad powers as the board deciding what triggers an investigation, what the criteria are, who can be brought in and how it should carry out the investigation. We need to be a little sharper and crisper on this.

One issue that I wish to raise regards Clause 5, and the healthcare provided in Crown interests. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, touched on this. A patient’s journey is not determined just by the fact that they are being treated by the NHS. If you are a prisoner seeking equivalent healthcare in a prison, then to be honest quite a bit of the care that you receive will not depend on the NHS. If there are no prison guards available to transfer you or, in the same way—because there is a power relationship—if you are not able to raise concerns, these are real issues. The Bill has been written specifically through the prism of health and NHS professionals. That is understandable but the context of where healthcare is given, particularly when it is meant to be equivalent, on a Crown estate means that the Bill has to go much wider.

I think it is Clause 7 which refers to listed persons, but they are all to do with health. There is nothing to do with the Prison Service or the Ministry of Justice, which will be as important as healthcare providers in terms of where healthcare is provided. How have the Government looked at the contradictory legislation which will create problems in places such as the Ministry of Justice, for example on data sharing? There are four levels of data sharing within the Prison Service and health, some local and some national, but there are also rules which the Ministry of Justice is bound by on the use of data which contradict things in the Bill. We need to be much more joined up on how this is done. As I say, there is a real power relationship here between a prisoner and their family and their healthcare. We need to think through the different levels of how investigations will be carried out and have safeguards, particularly for patients and families, in the places where that kind of power relationship happens.

I want to come on to the issue of the independent providers, as other noble Lords have done. The Minister gave her view, right at the beginning, that the Paterson review is the reason for this provision not being brought into this Bill. Let us be clear: the Paterson review is a non-statutory investigation into things that went wrong in the independent sector, and it will make recommendations on what might need to change in that sector. It has nothing to do with independent investigation on a non-blame basis about how future investigations in the private sector will continue. That is what this Bill is about, and the two things are completely different.

I find it unbelievable that a person who is treated in a private sector hospital whose care is NHS-commissioned somehow has a right to different levels of safety, and somebody in the next bed whose care is non-NHS-commissioned does not, within the same institution. It is nonsensical. The provision has to be for both private and NHS patients. Surely this Bill should be about patient safety, regardless of who is commissioning or providing the care. That should be a central tenet.

I am the 10th speaker, and I am surprised that no one has raised the subject of social care: where is it in all this? I refer the House to my interest in the register as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. Thinking about the route and the complexity of care, this is about not just NHS care but social care as well. If an individual is receiving both social care and healthcare, which are meant to be integrated in a care package, what role will this body have to look at issues in social care that have led to a lack of safety? How will such recommendations be looked at? Will safety and the subsequent reports be looked at comprehensively? Will this body have teeth when it comes to social care?

I support what my noble friend Lady Parminter said about the PHSO, the ombudsman. Let me be clear: trust in this organisation means trust among staff who work in the health service but among patients and families as well. The two should not be ranked to make one more important than the other. As the Bill is written, this organisation is the author of the homework and the judge of the homework, but trust will fall down if, where something has happened to an individual, the PHSO is not able to get to vital information. There will be contradictory recommendations and results about what has happened; one systematic and one about the patient. There will then be a breakdown in trust. There is clear guidance already on the use of data between public bodies. There is also the issue that, on many occasions, the PHSO uses anonymised data to be able to come to conclusions. If this is to be a last resort for patients and their families, we need to look again at the way in which the PHSO can access data from the safe space.

My final two issues come back to what a number of noble Lords have said. It is all right having reports and recommendations, but their implementation within the NHS is renowned as being complex because there are so many organisations. I am not clear how this will be audited and its implementation checked. I come back again to how the Bill is written. Some of the recommendations and their implementation will be on the NHS, and all the bodies listed in Clause 28 as having a duty of support are NHS bodies. No bodies are listed that are not NHS, such as social care bodies or the Prison Service, but they will need to implement changes. However, as the Bill is drafted, this new body has no role in supporting them in that implementation. What will be done to ensure that this body can look at organisations beyond the NHS that are vital in addressing the systematic failure in patient safety?

Finally, and I will be very fast on this, I want to reiterate a number of issues. As a former NHS manager and as a patient in the NHS, I am indebted to clinicians, but clinicians have one view of the world. This is not to deride that—their training and their view of things leads them to a certain way of looking at issues and they use their expertise in that—but the non-executive directors have to be a broad range of people. It comes back to trust. Patients, clinicians and even some people who are not within the health service spectrum can bring their expertise to this. We need to think a little more broadly about who the non-executive directors will be.

As I said, I welcome the thrust of the Bill. It can and will contribute to patient safety, but there are issues that have to be thought through. If they are not, the body will not be able to produce the reports, and the NHS—or should I say healthcare and non-healthcare settings where healthcare is provided—will not implement the changes that will mean patients will be safer.