Clause 44

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 17th January 2008.

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Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Minister of State (Regional Affairs) (South West), The Minister of State, Department of Health 2:30 pm, 17th January 2008

We made it clear in the White Paper and in our response to the consultation on it—indeed, in the Bill—that the first priority for the new Care Quality Commission will be the safety and quality of care in hospitals and other registered health and social care providers. In the light of that, we believed that there should be a phased transition from the current system to the new. That is why we have introduced the provision for the general reviews—those not directly concerned with assurance of acceptable levels of safety and quality—of the UK’s quality commission to kick in a year after the new registration system, which is going to be very important and a very big job, has been fully implemented. I would like to reassure both the hon. Member for Eddisbury and other members of the  Committee that transitional arrangements will be put in place to make sure that the commission will still be able to undertake investigations where the commission believes that there is a risk to the health, safety or welfare of people receiving health or social care.

Let me use some recent high-profile examples. The Cornwall learning disabilities investigation is an example of the type of activity that the CQC could get on with straight away, without the year’s delay. The health care-associated infection investigations that have been done at Stoke Mandeville and at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells are similar, because they are so obviously connected to the quality of care and safety of people. The more general reviews that we are talking about would be general reviews of a service, either throughout the country or in a particular region.

I can assure the hon. Gentleman and other members of the Committee that we are not the slightest bit interested—I hope that we have made this clear; Anna Walker has acknowledged this—in fettering the independence of the commission to conduct the reviews that it thinks it should be able to conduct. We simply want to avoid the hiatus that the hon. Gentleman said that he was worried about in the initial year, and avoid an unnecessary and unreasonable burden on the newly regulated bodies during the period of transition and registration, which will be quite a big process.