Clause 7 - Exercise of functions relating to provision of services

Part of Health and Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 14th September 2021.

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Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 2:00 pm, 14th September 2021

I am getting my exercise today in bouncing up and down in my seat. Clause 7 enables NHS England to direct one or more integrated care boards to exercise certain NHS England functions and to fund the exercise of those functions. This relates to NHS England functions such as the commissioning of specialised services, health services in justice settings and armed forces settings, primary medical services, dental services, primary ophthalmic services, pharmaceutical services, and any of the Secretary of State’s public health functions that are exercisable by NHS England on his behalf. In future the intention is that ICBs be responsible for the majority of health service commissioning in England. This approach will ensure that decisions about services are made closer to the patient and in line with local population needs, enabling greater integration in the way that services are arranged and delivered.

Clause 7 ensures that NHS England has the appropriate powers to make sure we achieve our policy objective, by allowing flexibility for ICBs to take on these additional commissioning responsibilities as delegated functions from NHS England. We intend that this can be used by NHS England to delegate primary care functions while ICBs mature, before we transfer them fully to ICBs at the appropriate time using clause 16 and schedule 3, which we will debate in due course. This will allow NHS England to keep a closer watch on how ICBs are discharging these functions, and managing the transition, before they are fully delegated to and embedded in ICBs.

The Secretary of State will have the ability to make regulations under this clause, meaning that, where appropriate, certain conditions or limitations can be placed on NHS England’s power to direct ICBs, including the ability to prescribe functions that the power does not apply to at all. Any directions issued by NHS England under this clause must be published. I know that the transparency point is one that the shadow Minister has raised on a number of occasions, so I reassure him that they must be published ensuring that such directions are made transparently, and that responsibilities between NHS England and ICBs are clearly set out.

This clause is essential to give NHS England the flexibility, and the appropriate mechanisms, to delegate the commissioning of these services when the time is right to do so. Therefore, I commend it to the Committee.