Clause 56

Health and Social Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 17th January 2008.

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Inspections

Photo of Stephen O'Brien Stephen O'Brien Shadow Minister (Health)

I beg to move amendment No. 39, in clause 56, page 27, line 35, at end insert—

‘(aa) the provision of independent healthcare,’.

Photo of Jimmy Hood Jimmy Hood Labour, Lanark and Hamilton East

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 40, in clause 67, page 32, line 31, leave out

‘paid for out of public funds’.

No. 41, in clause 67, page 32, line 33, leave out

‘paid for out of public funds’.

Photo of Stephen O'Brien Stephen O'Brien Shadow Minister (Health)

The amendment seeks to enable the CQC to inspect independent health care, a point touched on earlier by others on other amendments. Amendments Nos. 40 and 41 amend clause 67(4), which limits regulations under that clause to health and social care schemes paid for out of public funds only. The amendments seek to broaden it to all health and social care schemes and the clause makes provision for the commission to make arrangements with Ministers of the Crown to inspect health and social care facilities within their remit. The obvious example is health care provided through the defence budget. That is a useful example to have in mind. On amendment No. 39, we need to ask why the Bill limits the inspection to NHS bodies. On amendments Nos. 40 and 41, I understand that that is in regard to other Ministers of the Crown, It might be helpful if the Minister could outline which ones. I assume that they are the Defence and Foreign Ministers. Why is it limited to health care paid for out of public funds? Presumably, that has something to do with departmental budgets or allocations. That is the sum of the purpose of the amendments.

Photo of Sandra Gidley Sandra Gidley Shadow Minister, Health

We have cantered around this subject in other parts of the Bill. I wish the hon. Gentleman better luck in having his amendments accepted than we have had so far. I cannot stress how strongly I am  beginning to feel that we have to ensure that other forms of health care are included in some way. I fully support the amendments.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Minister of State (Regional Affairs) (South West), The Minister of State, Department of Health

I am going to have to disappoint the hon. Lady again. We believe that clause 56 sets out clearly the purposes for which the Care Quality Commission may carry out inspections. On that basis I do not think that the amendment is necessary. It is interesting to have the spokesman for the Opposition advocating from a sedentary position even more regulation of private transactions between individuals. That is an interesting position. The intention behind the amendment is met by clause 56(1)(a), which allows the commission to carry out inspection of

“the carrying on of a regulated activity,” by any care provider registered with the Care Quality Commission.

Clause 67 enables the Care Quality Commission to make arrangements with another Minister of the Crown. Under an agreement with the relevant Minister, that clause allows for the commission to perform any of its functions in relation to a specific prescribed health or social care scheme paid for by public funds or to provide relevant services or facilities that that Minister may require in relation to such a scheme. Amendments Nos. 40 and 41 would extend that power to schemes that are not paid for from public funds.

Clause 67 is intended to allow the commission to share its skills, expertise and know-how for the good of another public sector service—the hon. Member for Eddisbury has mentioned a couple—falling under the remit of another Department. For example, the commission might make arrangements with the Secretary of Sate for Defence to review the quality of health care provision for the armed forces. We have been in active discussion with the Ministry of Defence and the Healthcare Commission about that. The commission will also have powers, set out in paragraphs 8 and 9 of schedule 4, to act jointly with or advise and assist other public authorities. The crucial difference is that the powers in clause 67 allow the commission to carry out activity on behalf of another Department.

Carrying out an activity or lending resource to another body is a more significant step than simply providing advice or carrying out an existing function jointly and, as such, has the potential to distract resources, priority and management focus from the commission’s core functions. That should be done only where there is a clear public benefit.

Photo of Stephen O'Brien Stephen O'Brien Shadow Minister (Health)

I understand where the Minister is going and I am possibly satisfied in respect of the other Departments. He mentioned clause 56(1)(a), which deals with

“the carrying on of a regulated activity” and encompassed some of my concerns. Will he just clarify whether that relates only to regulated activities provided by public bodies or could it cover privately produced regulated activity, in which case my point is met?

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Minister of State (Regional Affairs) (South West), The Minister of State, Department of Health

As we have said time and again, any provider that is regulated will be required to meet the requirements set out in that regulation—so that would  include independent providers. My difference with the Liberal Democrats is that they seem to want us to intervene on purely private transactions between individuals. Any registered provider would be required to meet the standards laid down in regulation.

Photo of Stephen O'Brien Stephen O'Brien Shadow Minister (Health)

I will reflect on our exchange and ensure that if my point has not been met, we find another way of bringing it up again, but at this point I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 56 ordered to stand part of the Bill.