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Access to Palliative Care and Treatment of Children Bill [HL] - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:21 pm on 7th February 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 3:21 pm, 7th February 2020

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in what has been an important and moving debate. I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. Her passion and commitment to improve the quality and experience of end-of-life care for everyone in this country are well known, both in this place and outside these walls, where her experience is known for not just the passion that she expresses but the way she has touched individuals’ lives. I also congratulate and pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Brownlow on what was an outstanding and moving maiden speech. It is quite clear that he has a great deal to contribute to this place and I look forward to his contributions in many debates to come.

Obviously, the provision of high-quality end-of-life care is an issue that each of us will care very personally about, and I therefore understand the intention of the Bill. It is the third time I have spoken on this matter in as many parliamentary Sessions. In responding, I shall address the provisions of Clause 1, and then Clause 2, which addresses a separate and equally important matter.

In common with previous Bills tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay—I would like to call her my noble friend—Clause 1 of this Bill seeks to introduce a range of measures relating to the provision of palliative and end-of-life care services, which have already been rightly tested in debate. These would create new primary legislation and amend existing legislation in Section 3(1)(c) of the National Health Service Act 2006, to create new duties on CCGs to provide some specific measures listed in the Bill.

Although I take the points raised by the noble Lord, at the moment, no other clinical area is provided for in such a detailed, prescriptive way as this Bill would create, although there are measures which were noted by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins. As the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, will know from responses to her previous Bills, legislating in this kind of detail on what a local commissioner must provide with regard to a clinical area is contrary to the principle of the autonomy of a clinical commissioning body, which was established in the Health and Social Care Act 2012, to determine what services it will commission based on the assessed needs of its local population. CCGs are already subject to the duty to commission health services based on local needs and palliative care is covered by this general stipulation. In addition, there is existing national commissioning and clinical guidance on the delivery of high-quality end-of-life care, which I know many in this House will be very familiar with.

Concerns have also been raised that legislating that care should be provided in a range of locations for patients—essentially, legislating for choice in end-of-life care—risks creating some tension between patients, clinicians and families, where patients cannot receive specialist palliative care in their home or care home because of their level of clinical need or the suitability of the accommodation. That may be debated further.

The Bill contains a separate provision which would mean that hospices can access drugs that would be available on the NHS on a no-cost basis, and that commissioners should pay for this. Currently, a CCG pays for a hospice resident’s medicines only, first, where it has commissioned the hospice care or, secondly, where they are prescribed by a GP and the cost has been allocated to that CCG under Schedule 12A to the NHS Act 2006. This would represent an expansion of CCGs’ liability—