Clause 44

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 17th January 2008.

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Photo of Stephen O'Brien Stephen O'Brien Shadow Minister (Health) 2:15 pm, 17th January 2008

I ought to tell the Minister that I had not thought of this until I reflected upon why things had gone so badly wrong in the case of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust. It turned out that it was a draft, not a final report, that reached the Department in May 2007, but no action was taken until October 2007. I understand the Minister’s position, of course, and accept it in a pragmatic way, in the hope that one day our positions may be reversed. I dare say that if I were speaking from the Treasury Bench, I too would want advance warning were criticism coming. I am not being difficult about this just as a member of the Opposition.

That said, the normal forewarning has been the practice of the Government. In this case, however—a hospital-acquired infection of clostridium difficile resulting in the number of deaths that occurred at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust—there had been a thorough draft report in May on which we had no action until October. That seems, by every test, not to be simply forewarning but either not being on top of things or seeking to manage the situation in a way that was not open to public scrutiny or accountability. There is a general sense of frustration that accountability has not been forthcoming: only a sense of shock at the sheer scale of the terrible consequences, let alone the individual cases. That was what suggested to me that we needed to address this, hence these amendments.

I have listened to the Minister’s general point. I do not cavil at that, but I do feel that there is a valid point in making sure that there is not the capacity for the Government and others to sit on difficult news or information, particularly in health and social care where the individual or, indeed, general consequences are terrifying. I will withdraw the amendment, but I hope that the Minister has had the opportunity to listen to that plea, and perhaps he will also add that to the list of items on which he wishes to reflect. I think that the point is well made; there is not much purpose to be served by forcing this to a Division, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.