I am sorry to tell the hon. Member for Eddisbury that we think the HealthWatch idea is as flawed as other ideas in the Conservatives’ draft Bill, such as giving over the running of the health service to an independent, unaccountable national quango. The reasoning behind the new clauses appears to be that the committee will represent patient and public views to the commission more effectively than the local involvement networks—or the regional or national networks that they might choose to establish with the Care Quality Commission—might otherwise be able to achieve.
The re-establishment of a centralised body, especially one that sits within the Care Quality Commission would undermine our move towards more local determination, flexibility and responsiveness. It would also go against the conclusion of the arm’s length body review in 2004, which recommended the abolition of the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health—a not dissimilar body to the one being proposed as part of the wider Government agenda to move resources from centralised bodies to the front line.
LINKs should be given time to determine their own way of being represented regionally and nationally if they wish. Together with other changes we are making such as the complaints reform to which the hon. Gentleman referred, that will more than cover the function set out in the Bill for HealthWatch and ensure the representation of the public and patient voice to the new regulator, as my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North so eloquently advocated.