Examination of Witnesses

Part of Health and Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 9th September 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Ed Hammond:

In answer to your first point, I think it is clear. As we become more familiar with what is a complex system—and health governance is complex—some of this confusion will dissipate. As we start to operate practically within these systems, familiarity will breed a degree of confidence in understanding whose roles relate to what. As with all complex systems, it is vital that everybody understands their individual and collective responsibility for governance within those systems and accountability.

It is great when you have a partnership-led framework, in which everybody in the system is working together, and everybody has some stake in the system and in decision making. It is not a hierarchical, dictatorial system; it is one based, hopefully, on dialogue and, to an extent, consensus. The risk of that is that it necessarily dilutes accountability. Where everybody has a stake in decision making, you need some kind of external source of local accountability. That leads on to a second question. I think there is a need for a distinct and separate form of local accountability within these new arrangements at system, place and neighbourhood level. That role is currently performed at a local level in two main places: through local Healthwatch, from whom you will be hearing later, and through local health overview and scrutiny committees.

For me, the risk of these new arrangements is that, first, the removal of the power of referral to the Secretary of State by health overview and scrutiny committees on matters of concern relating to substantial variation of local health services is a worry for us, as it is for NHS colleagues. Also, the focus on system-level decision making will, by definition, make it more challenging for local health overview and scrutiny committees to co-ordinate to form, where necessary, joint committees to effectively oversee, scrutinise and hold to account ICS, ICB and ICP activity at system level.