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Clause 11 - Power of Secretary of State to give

Part of Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 22nd 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) 10:45 am, 22nd May 2003

I can speak only about the three years for which allocations have been made. As regards wider access to public capital per se, however, there are some obvious areas for concern. Among those important services and systems that glue the NHS together, the need to upgrade the information technology infrastructure in the national health service is a priority.

The operation of private finance initiatives in relation to NHS foundation trusts is another big issue. The Government want to ensure that sponsors and funders are left in no worse a position as a result of the introduction of the new legislation and the establishment of NHS foundation trusts. The Government are proposing that, in future, all Department of Health-approved NHS foundation trust PFI schemes will be under novation to the Secretary of State. PFI consortia will be in a direct primary contractual relationship with the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State will, in turn, appoint the NHS foundation trust—either as his agent or subcontractor—to perform the obligations arising under the contract on his behalf. There will, therefore, be no substantive change.

The question arises more widely about access to public money; for instance, for initiatives that might arise under national service frameworks or the need to

upgrade the information technology infrastructure of the NHS. In future, resources will be allocated mainly through the system by the new national tariff arrangements; that is true for NHS foundation trusts as well as those trusts that are not foundation trusts. If the Department requires NHS foundation trusts to procure a specific item—for example, in relation to a new initiative linked to implementation of a national service framework—the Department would have to fund it. Otherwise, the NHS foundation trust might not be in a position to participate.

The key point in relation to any central initiative such as this is that the relevant requirements should be set out in the terms of the authorisation, and I expect that they would be. If any public funds were made available for a central initiative such as information technology, NHS foundation trusts should have access to an equitable proportion of those funds. The Government intend that to be the case.