Examination of Witness

Part of Health and Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 9th September 2021.

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Sir Robert Francis:

The first requirement is that there needs to be clarity about what happens in those circumstances, which I am not sure we see in the current legislation or in the guidance that NHS England has produced, which I briefly read. Our suggestion is that there should be a provision inserted into the Bill that, if there is a disagreement, and the board decides to do something that is contrary to the views put forward by the partnership, it should then be obliged to set out their reasons for that. In other words, there should be transparency, which enables accountability, if it is necessary, to be more easily handled.

That would be the major thing we would require, but there also needs to be a better understanding, as far as the public is concerned, about the relationship between the two. I have heard what has been said today, and I must say that I am not clear that the partnership is a sub-committee of the board. That is because the Bill explicitly says that the creation of the partnership is a joint matter between the board—I think, or the NHS—and the local authority. It strikes me that that is not clear.

That is important because, if there is a disagreement, local people are entitled to know why. It would be good if they could also be persuaded that whatever is happening is actually the right thing for them, but they are certainly entitled to be part of the discussion. For that to happen, there need to be reasons given. Another thing that might send a shiver through some spines is that if there is an obligation to give reasons, it might be easier for those who object to the course being taken to challenge it.