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[Part II]

Part of Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:45 pm on 20th May 2003.

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Photo of John Hutton John Hutton Minister of State, Department of Health, Minister of State (Department of Health) (Health) 6:45 pm, 20th May 2003

It is certainly not our intention that the application process should have any negative impact on the provision of clinical services by NHS trusts that wish to become foundation trusts. That would be guaranteed in a number of different, but related, ways. At all times, the Commission for Health Improvement will have a responsibility to look at the performance of the trust; so will the strategic health authority. It will have a continuing role in relation to the performance management of the trust until it is established as an NHS foundation trust, at which point it will cease to have a direct performance management role.

Ultimately, the Secretary of State must ensure that the performance of the applicant for NHS foundation status does not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question lies in the common-sense approach that we now take to performance management in the NHS. He is inviting the Committee to agree with the amendment. I imagine that it is a probing amendment designed to ensure that we discuss that matter. I do not think it is a sensible amendment, given its wording.

We have made it clear that we want to provide additional financial support from Department of Health funding to support the application process, which we obviously need to discuss with the applicants. I want to make it clear that that is not a process of reducing the quality of clinical care provided by applicants for NHS foundation status, but of giving them the means and the tools to raise the quality of clinical care. The operational and other freedoms in the Bill will help in that process.

I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he is looking for in that we will be looking carefully at all stages of the application process to ensure that what he has described will not happen. We have the tools that are at present available to the Department of Health because, until the authorisation comes through, matters are still centrally managed. We will have command of the control system. Neither the hon. Gentleman nor I likes that, but the tools will be there to make sure that the mischief that he has identified as

a potential hazard does not occur. I accept that that is a clumsy instrument. The command and control mechanisms of the NHS are clumsy. That is why we need to move away from them. However, they will remain in place throughout the application process, and it is our intention that we shall use whatever instruments and tools exist—together with additional financial support that we will be providing for applicants to help them through the process—to make sure that what both the hon. Gentleman and I want to avoid happening does not happen.