Amendment 184ZBA

Part of Health and Care Bill - Report (4th Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 2:00 am on 16th March 2022.

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Photo of Baroness Penn Baroness Penn Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 2:00 am, 16th March 2022

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Nicholson for bringing this debate before the House today. I understand the sentiment behind her amendment and I am appreciative of all her work advocating for women’s rights. It is an absolute departmental priority that all patients feel safe when receiving NHS services. This is particularly important where patients are interacting with the healthcare system because they may be particularly vulnerable.

My noble friend and all noble Lords are clearly well aware that NHS England and NHS Improvement are currently reviewing the operational guidance on delivering same-sex accommodation to ensure that it remains focused on privacy, safety and dignity for all patients. An internal review of the guidance is the right way in which to ensure that it is fit for purpose and complaint with all statutory obligations. The content of any updated guidance is being informed by engagement with a wide range of stakeholders and in accordance with NHS England’s statutory duties outlined in the Equality Act 2010, including the public sector equality duty. Any revised guidance is due to be published later this year.

I understand that some noble Lords have concerns about the current guidance, and the department remains open to considering this issue further. I reassure all noble Lords that, before publication, Ministers will seek assurances from NHS England and Improvement that it has fully considered whether the guidance is compliant with existing legislation and with NHS England’s relevant duties. However, as it currently stands, accepting this amendment would pre-empt the outcome of the review of the guidance and NHS England, as part of its review, will be considering the Equality Act 2010 and how it applies to the guidance.

I hope my noble friend can appreciate the need to allow NHS England and Improvement to conduct its review of the guidance in full. NHS England and Improvement is fully aware of importance of the review of the guidance to so many and is working to publish the updated guidance at the earliest opportunity.

It is late and we have had a number of debates on a number of important and emotive issues. I thought I might try to conclude my contribution by finding the common ground I thought I heard in the different contributions that we had to this last debate, and I am sorry if I misrepresent anyone in doing so. I think that everyone agreed that wards should be places of safety and dignity that allow patients to get the care they need; that we need to respect the rights of everyone in looking at how we deliver on that and that, in doing so, any guidance and practice is in line with the Equality Act and the law more generally; that the guidance that is produced is practical and effective for clinicians who are trying to deliver the best possible outcomes for patients; and that we approach this and other issues where there is disagreement or conflict about how we adhere to those aims from a position of evidence, compassion, empathy and respect. With that, I hope that my noble friend feels able to withdraw her amendment.