Annual report on the cost of healthcare arrangements

Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 am on 29 November 2018.

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(1) The Secretary of State must lay before Parliament an annual report setting out all expenditure and income arising from each healthcare arrangement made under this Act.

(2) The annual report laid under subsection 1 must include, but is not limited to—

(a) all payments made by the government of the United Kingdom in respect of healthcare arrangements for healthcare provided outside the United Kingdom to British citizens;

(b) all payments received by the government of the United Kingdom in reimbursement of healthcare provided by the United Kingdom to all non-British citizens;

(c) the number of British citizens treated under healthcare arrangements outside the United Kingdom;

(d) the number of non-British citizens treated under healthcare arrangements within the United Kingdom;

(e) any and all outstanding payments owed to or by the government of the United Kingdom in respect of healthcare arrangements made before this Act receives Royal Assent; and

(f) any and all administrative costs faced by NHS Trusts in respect of healthcare arrangements.

(3) The information required under section 2(a) and 2(b) above must be listed by individual country in every annual report.—

Brought up, read the First time, and Question proposed (this day), That the clause be read a Second time.

Question again proposed.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

Mr Streeter, it is a pleasure to see you in the Chair this afternoon and to serve under your chairmanship. The hon. Member for Burnley has moved the motion, and in responding, I will take the opportunity to deal with the important issues of financial reporting and facilitating parliamentary scrutiny.

I will say at the outset that there can be no suggestion, nor is it the Government’s intention, that we should have anything other than a commitment to transparency and transparent use of public money. We are also committed to appropriate parliamentary scrutiny: we have taken several significant steps to ensure that central Government data is published in a transparent way, including spending control. However, that needs to be done in an efficient and effective manner, and we need to know what data is available and is not available. I have problems with the hon. Lady’s new clause because such a detailed reporting requirement is premature, and risks the very thing that she seeks to avoid. She seeks to avoid placing an administrative burden on the public bodies, but that is exactly what the new clause might do.

We believe that the frequency and detailed content of a financial report should be determined once the reciprocal healthcare arrangements have been made and the technical and operational details of those agreements are known. At the moment, the collection of administrative data is facilitated by the registration and exchange of e-forms through the processes provided for in the relevant EU regulations. As a result, the UK and other EU member states are able to collect data and report both nationally and at an EU level, based on known processes. Current spending on EEA healthcare is reported as part of the Department of Health and Social Care’s annual report—which the hon. Member for Burnley may wish to look at, or may well already know about—as well as the accounts that are presented to this place. The Department also provides information to the European Commission for its triennial report on cross-border healthcare, as well as providing an annual statement of financial accounts to the Commission.

The Department is currently negotiating with the EU and individual states therein with a view to providing UK citizens with continued access to healthcare in the EEA, either through an agreement or through bilaterals. In that case, we will have to agree how eligibility is evidenced; how, and how often, that information is exchanged; and, of course, the reimbursement mechanisms that will govern the new arrangements. Those agreements will have to take into account the operational possibilities and limitations of each contracting party. That should include how NHS trusts in the UK can evidence eligibility for treatment, and how that can be done in the most efficient and least burdensome manner. I therefore say to the hon. Lady that much of the data she requests is already published. There is no suggestion that the new healthcare reciprocal arrangements will change the administrative burden; in certain cases, it is a simple matter of looking at coding within systems. However, only once the technical details are known will the Government be able to formally commit to any additional reporting, if necessary.

I am bound to say to the hon. Member for Burnley that when I saw that the new clause had been tabled, I remembered that 10 years ago, I was in the place she is in now. It is the traditional role of Oppositions to table these new clauses for almost every Bill; it is also the traditional role of Governments to reject them when they see them, as I remember only too clearly from when I was sat in the hon. Lady’s place. I therefore hope I have gone some way towards making clear to her that we are not trying to avoid any reporting requirement, or to shy away from any parliamentary scrutiny. There are already a number of reporting processes in place, and we want to make sure that any future reporting processes operate in a proportionate and considered manner. I hope that the hon. Lady will accept the spirit of my remarks, and that she will therefore choose not to press the new clause to a Division.

Photo of Julie Cooper Julie Cooper Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care) (Community Health)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Streeter, and to respond to the Minister’s points. I appreciate some of his arguments, but we are in unprecedented times. As the Bill will facilitate the arrangement of a diverse range of agreements, it must cover every eventuality. It is therefore perfectly reasonable to expect the technical agreements, once they have been reached, to be reported back to Parliament annually. Parliament cannot be expected to grant a blank cheque. I accept that I do not have the Minister’s experience in this place, but large amounts of money will be spent on as yet unknown agreements, so it seems reasonable to request that, when the negotiations result in an agreement, it is reported back to Parliament once a year. That is the first thing that concerns me.

I should have thought that the Government would want to take the opportunity to report on the improved performance and collection of charges due to the UK in respect of all non-UK citizens seeking to access care in the UK.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

Indeed, and of course we are doing so. We have made that clear. As the hon. Lady knows, over the past four years we have quadrupled the amount of income we are recovering.

Photo of Julie Cooper Julie Cooper Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care) (Community Health)

I am grateful to the Minister for that clarification, but my understanding is, as the Public Accounts Committee reported, that the Government have still not met their own targets on improved collection, and there will potentially be greater barriers to protection if several agreements are negotiated. I therefore want Parliament to have the opportunity to scrutinise the Government’s delivery on collection.

I am concerned that the Minister does not think it fitting for Parliament to have sight of an impact assessment of the additional burdens that the collection resulting from the as yet unknown agreements would have on NHS hospital trusts’ general financial wellbeing. I will press this new clause to a Division. I think it is sensible and reasonable, so there can be no cause to object to it.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 7, Noes 8.

Division number 3 Decision Time — Annual report on the cost of healthcare arrangements

Aye: 7 MPs

No: 8 MPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

New Clause 2