Examination of Witnesses

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

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Andy Bell:

Yes. It is a really important question. From the perspective of mental health, we have seen an enormous amount of progress in recent years from local Government really embracing the mental health agenda in many areas and becoming both a partner but also a scrutineer of the NHS through scrutiny committees and through the role of health and wellbeing boards too. The importance of that natural connection through, between the health and wellbeing board with the ICP in particular, the partnership bid, feels like there needs to be a very clear and close relationship and, again, where possible, decisions being made at place level—in the new language—feels really important to allow for that kind of relationship to build and actually become a really positive relationship, because so much of this does come down to relationships. However, clearly, the need for some kind of external scrutiny is incredibly important.

When we think about it from the mental health perspective, where systems or governing bodies—be it the integrated care board or anything else—are allowing mental health to slip through or particular groups of people are being poorly catered for by the system, some kind of external scrutiny and clear accountability is incredibly important. One thing we have said we would like to see in the Bill is an extended and expanded role for the Care Quality Commission to really scrutinise the degree to which integrated care boards and the decisions they are making—and, indeed, partnerships in their strategies—are looking across the board at health inequalities.

At the moment, the Care Quality Commission is very good at inspecting services for whether they are working appropriately with individuals they are seeing, but it has no powers to scrutinise whether the health system as a whole is working fairly and appropriately across all different groups of people. Unfortunately, that means, certainly from what we see in the mental health world, that there are a number of groups of people who get very poor support for their mental health—actually, very little help at all—and there is no current means in the system to address that.