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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Ed Hammond:

Broadly speaking, yes, that is fair. My central point would be that those structures and the opportunity that local government has through this Bill for more direct and active involvement in health and care decision making are good, but there still needs to be that separate independent source of accountability that we feel sits properly at a local level with democratically elected local councillors who have powers through health scrutiny committees to talk to local people about their needs. That needs to be there and needs to be strengthened. In respect of the Secretary of State powers I was talking about, my worry would be that we would see ICBs and ICPs looking over their shoulder at what the Secretary of State might want to do rather than looking down to local communities to understand where local need lies, with decision making being led somewhat by what people think national priorities should be.

Part of the solution to that problem is the things we have proposed around, for example, requiring the Secretary of State to consult with local scrutiny committees before exercising those powers, having the powers for local scrutiny committees formally to escalate things to the Secretary of State to act on, and what we have suggested for more effective joint scrutiny by multiple councils of the ICB at system level as well. Those are all part of that strength and accountability framework. It is about saying, “Okay, we have involved local government in decision making through the ICPs and through continuing the health and wellbeing process, but in doing so we also have to enhance and build on our existing health scrutiny arrangements.” As things stand, the Bill removes elements of those by removing the power of referral. It is about having a balance of accountability arrangements and ensuring that that strong external accountability continues.