Health and Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 16th September 2021.
I beg to move amendment 45, in clause 19, page 16, line 2, at end insert—
“(c) make arrangements to ensure that patients can access services within maximum waiting times in accordance with their rights in the NHS Constitution.”
This amendment places a duty on each integrated care board, in the exercise of its functions, to meet maximum waiting time standards.
The amendment would insert in clause 19 a new requirement on integrated care boards, in addition to the many requirements set out in the clause, to ensure that patients could access services within the maximum waiting times as set out in the NHS constitution. I expect the Minister will tell us that those requirements are already set out in the constitution and that the amendment is therefore unnecessary, but if the answer is that that is an effective tool for ensuring compliance, by any account it has failed.
In every aspect of performance, the NHS has gone backwards in recent years and there can be no doubting the strength of connection between that going backwards and the decade of austerity that the NHS has endured. It is more than five years since the 18-week standard has been met, and that has led to the record waiting lists we see now. In case there is any doubt about this, let me put it on the record that waiting lists were already at record levels before the pandemic, and despite all the fanfare from the Prime Minister following the national insurance rise, we still do not have a guarantee that they will go down during this Parliament.
Let us not forget why the last Labour Government introduced the standards. Years of underfunding under the 1979 to 1997 Conservative Government led us to a dark place. People were waiting months—sometimes years—to access treatment, and that was rightly identified as a priority to fix by the last Labour Government, who wanted to let record investment into the NHS, but also wanted to ensure that that investment was targeted and effective so that the NHS could be judged on its performance. As a result, the targets were introduced.
Targets and funding combined proved to be effective, which is why, by the time the Labour party left office, the NHS had record satisfaction levels and waiting times that today’s Secretary of State can only dream of. Little wonder the rhetoric in recent months has increasingly been that of scepticism about the benefit of such targets, culminating in the Secretary of State’s words at the weekend that the targets are, in fact, “nonsense”. Well, I think we can see what is going on. Targets have got hopelessly out of reach and there is no real plan for to how to change that, so the Government seek to undermine and ultimately change—or remove altogether—the targets, so that poor performance is disguised or played down.
That does a disservice to the patients who are waiting months—in some cases, sadly, years—for the treatment that they are entitled to. Most of those people will be in significant pain. All will be unable to live their lives to the extent that they would like. Some may be unable to work or undertake other physical activities. We do not need to go through the full list; we can all understand the impact that waiting for treatment can have on individuals. In many cases, their lives are effectively put on hold. They deserve better. The amendment would make it clear that their rights as patients under the constitution meant something and that the ICBs should be expected to focus on delivering those standards.
I am grateful to the shadow Minister for tabling the amendment and giving us the opportunity to debate it. Of course we understand the importance of reducing waiting times. The Government are committed to increasing activity, tackling backlogs and ensuring that patients can access timely healthcare, backed up by the record investment announced by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor—indeed, some might agree, to a degree copying what the Labour Government did in putting up national insurance.
For instance, to tackle backlogs and drive up activity, the Government are providing £2 billion of elective recovery funding, which is double our previous commitment, and we are working to encourage innovation to help patients to get the care they need. In his remarks, the shadow Minister highlighted funding. I would point out to him the fact that, despite inheriting a note saying “Sorry, there is no more money,” we have continued to increase spending on the NHS.
Let me turn to the specifics. The amendment would require all integrated care boards to make arrangements to ensure that patients could access services within maximum waiting times, in accordance with their rights. The NHS constitution—the shadow Minister was ahead of me—sets out the principles and values that underpin the NHS in England. It is a declaratory document, as the rights expressed in it are established by legislation that is independent of the constitution itself. It contains further pledges with which the NHS has committed to seek to comply as far as possible, but which, he would rightly say, are not legally binding.
The patient right on waiting times in the constitution encompasses both the 18-week referral to treatment standard and the two-week cancer standard, which are given statutory effect through regulations. A constitution pledge on waiting times encompasses a number of other non-statutory waiting time standards. The requirements in relation to waiting times provided for in the standing rules create a legal duty on the relevant NHS bodies to which they relate. That is in addition to the duty that all those who commission or provide services on behalf of the NHS have to have regard to the NHS constitution when exercising their functions.
The enabling power under which the standing rules regulations are made is being amended by the Bill to apply to ICBs. Amendments to regulations to confer the relevant duties on ICBs will also be made to coincide with the establishment of ICBs. Furthermore, it would not be appropriate to apply a requirement to ICBs in relation to all the waiting times in the NHS constitution, as some may fall, largely or partly, outside their control—for example, services commissioned nationally by NHS England. For those reasons, we cannot support the amendment, and I will try my luck in encouraging the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it.
I am grateful for the Minister’s vain attempt to persuade me to withdraw the amendment, although he rather missed the central thrust of its purpose, which is, of course, to point out that this is not just about funding; it is about focusing that funding. That is why the targets were introduced in the first place.
We believe it is important that ICBs are also given that focus; we could call it an incentive or a prioritisation. They should be keen to be seen to be delivering that. This is such an important part of the NHS—how are we to judge each ICB’s performance if we do not know how they are performing on waiting lists? This is an important area. We think the general tone and the rhetoric from the Government are that waiting targets are not of significance, so this is an opportunity for them to put right some of the stories that go around in respect of that by supporting the amendment. We will press the amendment to a vote in any case because we believe that this is an important matter, and it should be put on the record.
I will not repeat my comments of the other day with respect to an amendment that suddenly disappeared from the amendment paper without my noticing. The point I was making was that targets do drive behaviour, and we learnt something in that magnificent drive down from the Conservative Government’s target of 18 months to wait on a list, which seemed acceptable to them at the time. The wait is beyond that now for many services, which seems acceptable to the Government now, although it is completely unacceptable to everyone in my constituency.
We must consider the managerial and clinical effort involved in focusing on those waiting lists, which, as I have said previously, is about making contact with all those patients, assessing their condition and seeing how it has ordinarily deteriorated once on the waiting list. Sadly, many people have died while on those waiting lists. That effort is huge, and it will require focus.
The Government are asking us all to pay a bit more towards the health service, and most of us are conscious of the fact that that is needed. We can debate how it is being done, but we should know what it will get us. We should absolutely be clear to our constituents—given that they have suffered so much, particularly during the pandemic—that the previous standards were not acceptable, and were not being met, and that it is completely unacceptable to ask people to pay more without their having any idea of what that will bring, or indeed of the Government’s intent with regard to how long they think it is acceptable for people to be on a waiting list.
It is also hugely onerous on the clinical managerial staff to manage these waiting lists in the way that they are, which is hugely inefficient. This is a really bad sign of the flow through the system; we have bottlenecks throughout. It will come back to haunt the Government and whoever is speaking on their behalf at this time—I have no doubt about that. I say that with sorrow because it is miserable all round. The Government would be wise to make some kind of assessment of what they think is an acceptable time to wait for various treatments, so that would be clear to people. Supporting our amendment would give some indication of good faith, at the very least.
My hon. Friend has described the amendment very well, and it would be good to know the Government’s intentions in respect of waiting lists, because we consider the rhetoric a distraction and a nuisance. It is politically convenient for them to have such headlines. We want to put the amendment to the vote.
On a point of order, Ms Elliott. I apologise for interrupting the flow of the sitting, but it will not have escaped your notice that my amendments 55 and 54 to clause 20 are coming up soon. As luck would have it, the debate will coincide precisely with the time at which I am due in Westminster Hall to discuss the progress of the Government’s implementation of the recommendations of the Timpson review. It is very difficult for me to avoid being present in Westminster Hall. As luck would further have it, my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd is happy to move the amendments on my behalf, as well as speak to them. I hope that is acceptable, and I apologise for having to absent myself for a short period in order to fulfil my duties in another part of the House.
That is absolutely fine. I thank the hon. Member for advising the Committee of that.
I beg to move amendment 58, in clause 19, page 17, line 4, at end insert
“through working with innovation and life sciences ecosystems, facilitated by Academic Health Science Networks, to ensure patients and the public have timely access to transformative innovation.”
This amendment would mandate Trusts to work with AHSNs to promote innovation in health services.
Innovation has allowed us to conquer certain diseases and come up with better and more effective treatments for others. It is integral to societal progress and is a major source of inspiration, new opportunities and, indeed, new financial burdens for the NHS. Most importantly, it means improved outcomes for patients. Innovation needs to reach patients if we are to get the full benefit of the many incredibly talented people who make up our academic and research community.
Academic health science networks have an informal role in the NHS, and there is no obligation on any CCG to work with them to ensure that new, innovative medicines are available. There are 15 academic health science networks across England, which were established by NHS England in 2013 to spread innovation at pace and scale, improving health and generating economic growth. Each network has a distinct geography, covering a specific population in each region—it almost sounds like an integrated care system, but there are not quite as many. They are the only bodies that connect to the NHS and the academic organisations, and are catalysts that create the right conditions to facilitate change across health and social care communities with a clear focus, as we believe should be the case, on improving outcomes for patients. We think they are uniquely placed to underline and spread innovation at pace and scale, driving the adoption and spread of innovative ideas and technologies across large populations, but their effectiveness rests on their ability to bring people, resources and organisations together quickly, delivering benefits that could not be achieved if they operated in isolation.
Everything those bodies do is driven by two imperatives: improving health and generating economic growth in our regions. They are the only partnership bodies that bring together all partners across a regional hub economy to improve the health of local communities. They have a remit from NHS England to occupy what is effectively a unique space outside the usual NHS service contracts and performance management structures, enabling them to collaborate to foster important solutions.
Those bodies use local knowledge to harness the influence of partners to drive change and integrate research within health improvements. They are interested in seeing healthcare businesses thrive and grow, creating jobs, bringing investment and seeing the system improve. They have a different focus, but they share the following priorities: promoting economic growth; fostering opportunities for industry to work effectively with the NHS; diffusing innovation; creating the right environment; and supporting collaboration across boundaries to adopt and spread innovation at pace and scale. They improve patient safety by using knowledge, expertise and networks to bring together patients, healthcare staff and partners to determine priorities and to develop and implement solutions. They optimise medicine use—[Interruption.] Perhaps I have predicted what the Minister was about to say?
I am merely trying to ensure we make good progress today.
Those bodies ensure medication is used to maximum benefit, including safety and making efficient use of NHS resources. They improve quality and reduce variation by spreading best practice—we often talk about the variation among outcomes across different parts of the country. They put research into practice, collaborate on national programmes, and have a unified focus on various initiatives, including the NHS innovation accelerator and patient safety collaborative programme.
The amendment would bake in that good work, some of which I have outlined, by including those bodies within the scope of proposed new section 14Z39 of the National Health Service Act 2006 regarding innovation.
I rise to support my hon. Friend. We have rightly criticised much of what has happened in the last few years, but we should also remember that some amazing partnerships and networks have developed, including in my area—Bristol, north Somerset and south Gloucestershire—with the universities and others in both primary and secondary care, bringing together clinicians, researchers and so on. They stumbled initially as things were difficult at the beginning, but they have come together very well. They are well regarded—variable but well regarded—and are a useful source of innovation coming together, so I fully echo my hon. Friend’s comments.
I am grateful to the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston, for facilitating the debate on this matter, and, as I said, I admire his ability at pace and fluently to rattle through a long list of examples.
As the shadow minister said, the amendment relates to the role of ICBs and ICPs in relation to innovation. First, I want to reassure the Committee that I share his view on the vital importance of research to the NHS and the UK more widely. We are committed to being a research superpower and fully support research and innovation in the NHS and the public being given timely access to transformative medicines and treatments resulting from that innovation.
The example we would all use at the moment is vaccine development. That is a phenomenal example, and it is at the forefront of many of our minds. That is why we have replicated the research duty on CCGs for ICBs to continue a system that has been working well. We are fully supportive of research and ensuring that effective health, public health and social care services are delivered, but we cannot support the amendment.
Amendment 58 would require integrated care boards to work with innovation and life-science ecosystems, facilitated by the Academic Health Science Networks. We welcome collaboration and co-operation but we do not think it is appropriate to focus solely on the Academic Health Science Networks as the facilitator of such collaboration and co-operation. The AHSN is a non-statutory entity, and although it is a valuable addition to the sector, a range of other bodies—including the National Institute of Health Research, through infrastructure such as the NIHR applied research collaborations, the clinical research network and UK Research and Innovation, not to mention the large numbers of research charities and other partners—could be relevant both now and in future. Applying the requirement in the amendment would risk giving ICBs an artificially narrowed focus and therefore potentially miss other opportunities.
Secondly, the existing duty does not specify how integrated care boards must act to promote innovation. It is right to allow for flexibility, which encompasses working with others but is not limited to doing so.
I hope that I have given the Committee some reassurance on the importance and value that we attach to research as a key part our health and care system, and also explained why we think it is right for ICBs to have a duty to promote research on relevant health service matters and to use evidence from such research, without our being over-prescriptive as to how they should do so. I hope that I have offered the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston, some reassurance and words of comfort.
I am grateful for the Minister’s comments. The Opposition would not want to be accused of being over-prescriptive—that is certainly not what we intend. I appreciate what the Minister said about not wanting to limit the role of ICBs and he made a good point about the vaccine roll-out being a pertinent example of how innovation can be of huge benefit. That may be at the forefront of his mind because there is now a vacancy in the Department in the role of Minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment; the Minister may be looking to add to his already extensive portfolio.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
I beg to move amendment 7, in clause 19, page 17, line 7, leave out from beginning to end of line 9 and insert—
“(a) support the conduct of research on matters relevant to the health and care system,
(b) work with universities and other research settings to support the development of the health research workforce and careers, and
(c) promote the use in the health and care system of evidence obtained from research.”
This amendment would require Integrated Care Boards to work with universities to support research in their local health and care systems.
With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 8, in clause 19, page 17, line 13, after “1F(1)”, insert “and work with universities and colleges”.
This amendment would require Integrated Care Boards to work with universities and other education providers to promote education and training in their local health and care systems.
The amendments would place a legal duty on integrated care boards to support and promote the use and development of research in their local health and care systems. The existing legislation talks about the health system; this is the Health and Care Bill, so it makes sense that the duty to promote research should also promote research in care settings.
Importantly, amendment 7 would promote and support the conduct of research alongside universities, which drive research outputs and innovation in healthcare. We would all agree that that has been highlighted throughout the pandemic: if it was not for our universities, we would not have all received a vaccine, in respect of which the United Kingdom has been at the forefront of research and innovation.
In the specific context of the Bill, it is important to require ICBs to engage with universities and other research settings on the development of the healthcare research workforce. ICBs will have a vital role in ensuring that we have sufficient numbers in not only the health workforce but the healthcare academic workforce, which is key to overall healthcare workforce sustainability. That is particularly important for the development of the clinical academic workforce. Clinical academics work in higher education institutions, conducting cutting-edge research and educating the future workforce while also providing clinical expertise to health and social care services. Because they remain clinically active, their research is grounded in clinical practice and questions that matter to services and patients.
Data from the Medical Schools Council staffing survey shows that although the total number of NHS medical consultants and GPs has risen by 40% over the past 15 years, the numbers of clinical academic have simply not kept up to pace—in fact, they have decreased, from 7.5% to 4.2% of the workforce. The proportion of clinical academic GPs has remained stable, but at just 0.4% of the GP workforce. Furthermore, less than 0.1% of the workforce in nursing, midwifery and the allied health professions are clinical academics. Increasing clinical academic capacity is essential to advancing evidence-informed practice and innovation in healthcare in the future. The point here is that expansion of the healthcare programme of student numbers on the UK Government’s intended scale also requires an expansion of the number of healthcare academic staff.
The 2019 academic staffing centres of the Council of Deans of Health identify challenges for universities in recruiting staff and an ageing academic workforce in healthcare subjects. In England, 36% of academic staff are over the age of 50, and 9% are over the age of 60. That suggests that the academic workforce is significantly older than the healthcare workforce as a whole. It suggests that, within the next 15 years, almost half of the academic staff will be at or near retiring age, with many already likely to have retired. Without significant renewal of the academic healthcare workforce, not enough staff will be left to keep up with the number of students.
It is key that senior leaders in both the higher education and the healthcare sectors cultivate a culture of support for clinical academics. ICBs, health and social care providers and universities need to work in partnership to support clinical academics and clinical staff interested in secondments or joint appointments to universities. There should be opportunities for clinical staff to obtain experience and skills in teaching and also in research.
Amendment 7 ensures that ICBs remember their responsibilities to research, to local research priorities and to developing a local clinical academic research workforce, and universities are vitally involved in that important work. I think I am the only Member of this House who has been both a Health Minister and a Universities Minister twice. When I went into the Department of Health and Social Care, we were talking about integration between healthcare settings and social care settings. We have a similar problem with integration when it comes to looking at the medical workforce and ensuring that the education settings and the healthcare settings also integrate better together.
Amendment 8 returns to this point. It would require integrated health and care boards to work with universities to promote education and training in their local health and care systems. Universities are committed to co-creating healthcare services through working with practice partners, further education colleges and other stakeholders to plan and deliver the future workforce. I know that, when we come to clause 33, we will be talking about workforce planning at length, but this amendment would help to enable us to plan in advance to mitigate some of the problems that come with workforce planning for the future.
Universities are rooted in their local and regional communities and focus on improving healthcare outcomes and driving up economic and social wellbeing through providing programmes to meet skills gaps in those local areas. This is highlighted through the work of the universities during the pandemic, including the University of the West of England in my own locality hosting a Nightingale hospital, and the deployment of thousands of healthcare and medical students and some academic staff within clinical practice to expand the NHS workforce at the height of the pandemic. We all want to pay tribute to those medical students who, with no extra salary, gave up their time to volunteer to help staff on some of those covid wards at the time.
In England, universities currently sit on local workforce action boards and on sustainability and transformation partnerships to ensure that education is central to local healthcare planning. The amendment ensures that universities and colleges continue to be actively engaged by ICBs to plan and deliver on local workforce needs and priorities to ensure a sustainable workforce. This should take place alongside continued work with Health Education England.
Healthcare programmes are holistic and necessarily constituted of theory and practice components. For example, a registered nursing programme consists of 4,600 hours of education across three years—2,300 hours of academic learning and 2,300 hours of theory learning. Universities and their practice placement partners need to be involved in national and local workforce planning to ensure that there is adequate placement capacity in the system. As I saw when I was a Health Minister, placement capacity has long been recognised as a constraint to sector growth. Even if the hospitals wanted to expand, they did not have the placements to be able to deliver on the demand that was there.
ICBs must be involved in developing placement capacity and innovation and work with partners to increase placement opportunities outside the NHS, including in private healthcare, the third sector, social care, research and teaching, and international exchange. ICBs also need to work with education providers to think about developing education placements to support digital innovation and online and blended delivery, particularly considering the learning we have from the pandemic. That will help to support higher education institutions to manage the continued challenges posed by placement capacity problems, considering health service pressures.
Requiring ICBs to work with universities and colleges is also key to ensuring the success of healthcare apprenticeships and new technical qualifications such as T-levels. Universities work in close collaboration with local employers to develop and deliver healthcare apprenticeships. They are also committed to ensuring smooth articulation between further education and higher education, and universities are working with colleges to ensure that the healthcare T-levels and the new higher technical qualifications are rolled out successfully.
The amendment would ensure that the planning of future workforce numbers and sufficient placement capacity for all learner routes must be developed in partnership with education providers. That is crucial.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his amendments and the case he made for them. I hope that he remembers with fondness his visit to the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University when he was Universities Minister. He will have seen then the significant role that they play in our community, and I think they provide a good model for some of the things that we are talking about. I hope the Minister will address the points about clinical academics in particular. They were very well made, and I thought the right hon. Member for Kingswood also provided the basis for what will be a really interesting discussion on clause 33.
What attracts me to amendment 7 is that it is really important to send a signal to the leaders of integrated care boards that we want research to be central to their mission, as NHS Providers said in its evidence, and that we do not see them solely as administrators of health and care spending on a day-to-day basis, who every winter have to engage in collective crisis management to keep the lights on. We have much broader horizons in mind for them. If this is about new and enhanced models of more integrated care, we have to harness the expertise of academia. Hopefully, if this was effective and worked as a two-way process, with academics learning from inside the system and the systems learning from best practice from around the different footprints, that would be really powerful.
That relates neatly to the point about inequalities, from the beginning of our line-by-line consideration. The argument in favour of making that a priority was not about some sort of quixotic search for solutions or saying that something must be done, so let us just do something; rather, it is about taking evidence-based, high-quality interventions that work and putting them to work elsewhere. The sort of insights that amendment 7 proposes would certainly do that.
When I read amendment 8, my first instinct was, “I wish I had tabled it,” because I think it is great. We want to foster a culture where we invest in and develop our people. That is true whatever someone’s role is in the health and care service. Of course, that is really important in the NHS, and we all have a clear picture of what that looks like, but it is even more important in social care. We undervalue the role of social care in so many aspects, obviously and most tangibly in pay and conditions, but we also do not invest in people. Imagine how much more attractive a career in care would become if someone’s training prospects went beyond the limited ones offered by whoever their employer happens to be and instead a wealth of other opportunities and courses backed by top higher education providers in their community was opened up.
My family’s life was transformed by the impact that night school had on my mum’s skills. She progressed from being an unqualified person working in childcare and turned that from a job into a career. That was completely transformative, not just for her life but for mine and my sister’s. How terrific would that sort of picture be for people entering the care profession. It would be a wonderful thing. So there is a lot to go at here, and I am very interested in hearing the Minister’s views on how we can try to foster that culture, if not through amendments 7 and 8.
I rise to speak in support of the agenda raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood in his amendments 7 and 8 and the need for integrated care systems to ensure that NHS organisations for which they are responsible conduct and resource clinical research.
I think all would agree that the UK life sciences sector is world-leading. That was evidenced during the pandemic by the way in which early PCR testing was brought forward for covid, by the recovery trial and by vaccine development and so on. In this country, however, the location of existing activity is all too often limited. We have world-renowned centres of excellence, often associated with teaching hospitals. I would do nothing to weaken that. The Government’s levelling-up agenda needs to extend involvement in such activity across the country. But at the same time, it can strengthen what Britain has to offer to patients and the world as a whole, bringing economic benefit to the country as well as to the NHS through increased income.
Of course, I am a general practitioner. As a clinician, I would argue that research adds interest to the role. It can improve job satisfaction, reduce burnout and is of course a form of continuous professional development. That research element may make roles in more peripheral or less affluent parts of the country easier to recruit to. The amendment does not relate to Wales, but I know that Glan Clwyd Hospital in my constituency would benefit from closer research links with the teaching hospitals in Liverpool and Manchester.
Better patient outcomes can of course arise directly from involvement in trials and indirectly through a better functioning health system. I would argue that research needs mandating as it is otherwise all too often pushed to the back of the queue in a short-sighted attempt to maximise clinical output from staff. I would be grateful if the Minister considered that as the Bill proceeds.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood for tabling his amendments and allowing us to have this debate. As has been mentioned, he was both my distinguished predecessor in this role and a very distinguished Minister for universities and research.
Amendments 7 and 8 relate to requiring ICBs to work together with higher education institutions and to their research duty. With the consent of the Committee, and with yours, Ms Elliott, I will start with amendment 8 and revert to amendment 7. Amendment 8 would alter the statutory duty placed on ICBs to promote education and training when exercising their functions to assist the Secretary of State and Health Education England in the discharge of their statutory duties. The Government believe that integrated care boards should promote education and training for people who are employed or considering becoming employed in the provision of NHS services, and that is what proposed new section 14Z41 of the National Health Service Act 2006, in clause 19, achieves that. This provision mirrors the duty currently imposed on clinical commissioning groups. In discharging the duty, ICBs will invariably work with higher education institutions as well as other educational providers as they consider appropriate.
At this point, the Department does not think that it necessary to mandate specific details of how ICBs should discharge that duty under proposed new section 14Z41, particularly as NHS England will have a power to issue guidance to ICBs on the discharge of their functions, which should serve to clarify the system. The draft guidance published by NHS England and NHS Improvement in August 2021 states that the delivery of ICBs’ responsibilities will include working with educational institutions to develop the local future workforce across the health and care system. We believe that that guidance sends a strong signal to the system of the importance of the issue, reinforcing the statutory duty that ICBs will be under to promote education and training. Furthermore, it is worth noting in that context that ICBs will not be the only place in the system where engagement with higher education institutions will be taken forward.
HEE works extremely closely with higher education institutions and other education providers both nationally and through non-statutory regional people boards, jointly with NHS England, to ensure that the education and health systems are producing the right number of people with the right skills for our NHS. For example, Health Education England has already offered to support ICBs through the provision of workforce development support.
I will now turn to amendment 7, before wrapping both amendments together. I start by reassuring my right hon. Friend and other hon. Members who have spoken in this debate that the Government remain fully committed to supporting research as part of our NHS. Currently, clinical commissioning groups are under a duty to promote research; the Bill places the same duty on integrated care boards. That duty is discharged in a variety of ways—for example, with some CCGs having research strategies or research offices, providing details on how people can participate in research locally, or being partners in research organisations. Rather than being direct funders or directly conducting research themselves, the role of integrated care boards is to facilitate and enable research.
A duty to promote research gives greater flexibility for integrated care boards to determine how best and most effectively to engage with and encourage research in their local system. For example, NHS Liverpool CCG is the host organisation for the National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast, while NHS Norfolk and Waveney CCG has a dedicated primary and community care research office, which works with a range of stakeholders, including academics, to develop and support the delivery of healthcare research across the area.
The amendment would modify the research duty on integrated care boards by replacing a requirement to promote research on relevant health service matters with one to “support the conduct” of that research. It also contains an additional requirement for ICBs to work with universities and other research settings to support the development of the health research workforce and careers.
We believe that there would be relatively little practical impact from changing the duty to one of supporting the conduct of research, and that there would be the potential to cause some confusion to staff moving from CCGs to ICBs as to what was expected of them. On the question of developing the health research workforce and careers by working with universities and other research settings, there is a risk in highlighting universities in particular, as that might imply an exclusion of other education facilities, although I know that that is not the intent. Furthermore, I have already highlighted the effectiveness of the proposed education and training duty, which includes the research workforce. Finally, the duty in relation to promoting the use of evidence and research is already part of the existing ICB duties.
I hope that, given those reassurances, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood will not feel that he has to press his amendments to a vote. I look forward to continuing to speak with him as proceedings on the Bill continue, to ensure that when it becomes law, we end up with something that accurately reflects what we need in order to carry on being a powerhouse of innovation and research.
I thank the Minister for his considered comments on these amendments. They are probing amendments, and I do not intend to press them to a vote. I hope, however, that the Department will consider not only the discussion that we have had in Committee today, but a letter that was sent to the Minister’s office on
I have been in Bill Committees before—I am now legislating to take out a lot of what I legislated for 10 years ago, when I was dealing with what became the Health and Social Care Act 2012. These Bills do not come around very often, so we have a fantastic opportunity, as the oral evidence sessions demonstrated, and I fully appreciate it. I have removed and re-tabled one of my amendments, to clause 33, as a result of the feedback from the oral evidence sessions.
There is a tension about how prescriptive we should be when the very culture of the Bill is about locally led practice and delivery and ensuring that we give health service managers and clinicians the opportunity to decide what is best for their local areas, so I do appreciate that prescription here may be unnecessary, but I felt it was important that I raised this as an opportunity to make a change in the Bill.
When it comes to clause stand part, I would like to speak more generally on clause 19 about the value of research, which my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd has spoken about. I think we have an opportunity—it is one that I do not want to miss—when it comes to embedding research within the future of the NHS. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
I beg to move amendment 46, in clause 19, page 25, line 37, at end insert—
“14Z58A Power of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner to obtain information
(1) The Domestic Abuse Commissioner may require an integrated care board to provide the Domestic Abuse Commissioner with information.
(2) The information must be provided in such form, and at such time or within such period, as the Domestic Abuse Commissioner may require.”
This amendment places a requirement on Integrated Care Boards to share information with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner at their request.
This is the first of a couple of amendments relating to domestic abuse. I hope it is not necessary, but it is my best avenue for establishing a point. I am really hoping for a one-word answer from the Minister—in my experience, a one-word answer is better than a two-word answer—and I hope that we can make quick progress with the amendment.
In England and Wales, the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 created the post of Domestic Abuse Commissioner, who is in the vanguard of holding to account authorities and agencies to ensure that their process and plans promote our national attempts to tackle domestic abuse. Currently, the post is filled by the excellent Nicole Jacobs. She has the power to obtain information from public bodies such as the local police, the local council and the Care Quality Commission, so that she can express her views as to whether those organisations are acting in line with well-evidenced best practice in the decisions that they take. That is an important way in which we can be assured that public policy decisions on the ground from day to day reflect the national consensus on what we are trying to achieve.
Currently, NHS bodies are in scope of the commissioner’s powers, and I want to clarify that ICBs and any relevant sub-committee would also be in scope. The composition of the boards will not matter, and there will be no shielding behind commercial confidentiality. The body will sit consistently with other, similar bodies, and the commissioner will be able to get the information she needs to do the job that we have asked of her.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I share his view that it is crucial that integrated care boards co-operate with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner. I think I speak for the whole Committee when I say that we agree that the health and social care system has a crucial role in preventing and tackling domestic abuse, and in supporting victims who experience this horrendous crime. Indeed, before the last reshuffle, when I moved from Justice to Health, I was one of the Ministers working with the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Victoria Atkins, on the genesis of what is now the Domestic Abuse Act. Therefore, we wholeheartedly welcome the introduction of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s role in the Act.
The commissioner has a vital role to play in monitoring the response to domestic abuse, sharing best practice and challenging bodies, including in health and social care, to go further and to do more. The commissioner will require information, support and co-operation from integrated care boards as well as a range of other public bodies. That is why the Domestic Abuse Act contains a duty to co-operate with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, and we have made it clear that that will apply to integrated care boards and their component parts. It will also apply to requests for information from the commissioner. That is a little more than one word, but I hope I have reassured the hon. Member for Nottingham North that there is already such provision, as there should be. I hope that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
More broadly, the Department for Health and Social Care will be taking steps to ensure that integrated care boards also have the right guidance and support to ensure that they fulfil their duties in relation to domestic abuse, as well as violence against women and girls, and sexual violence more broadly. We will be following the Government’s recent violence against women and girls strategy by engaging with current ICSs, the wider sector and the commissioner, so that we identify best practice and share that guidance across the system to ensure that all parts of the system play their part.
I am grateful for that answer and clarification. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
This clause inserts 31 new sections into the NHS Act 2006. It is the cornerstone of the integrated care board provisions, as it sets out the functions and duties that ICBs are required by legislation to fulfil. Clause 19 contains a number of provisions and duties in respect of ICBs. Given the importance of these provisions in the Bill, I will take Members through them, if they will forgive me, in a little detail.
Proposed new sections 14Z32 to 14Z42 set out a number of different duties that apply to ICBs. These include to act in line with the NHS constitution and promote awareness of the NHS constitution; to exercise functions effectively, efficiently and economically; to act to continuously improve the quality of services; to seek to reduce inequalities in health outcomes and access to health services; to promote the involvement of patients and their carers and representatives in decision making about their care; to enable patients to make choices concerning the health services provided to them; to obtain expert professional and clinical advice for decision making; to promote innovation in the provision of health services; to promote research on matters relevant to the health service and the use of evidence obtained from research; to promote education and training; and to act to secure integration of health services, and between health services and social care services, where this would improve the quality of services or reduce inequalities in access to care or outcomes.
Proposed new section 14Z43 sets out the triple aim duty for ICBs in the same way as other clauses in the Bill have provided for that in relation to other bodies. This means that when making decisions, ICBs must consider the impact of decisions on the health, including mental health, and wellbeing of the people of England; the impact on the quality of services provided or arranged by NHS organisations, including NHS England itself; and the sustainable use of NHS resources. In addition, other existing duties placed on CCGs are recreated in this clause so that they will now apply to ICBs.
Proposed new section 14Z44 sets out requirements for involving the public, including carers and their representatives, whether by consultation or otherwise, when an ICB is exercising its functions. This will ensure that the voice of residents, those who access care and support, and carers is properly embedded throughout the health and care system, and that we have a health and care system that is accountable and responsive to the people who use it.
Proposed new section 14Z45 provides that regulations may be made to allow any prescribed function of an ICB to be exercised jointly with a local health board. Local health boards commission and provide health services in Wales, so this provision will continue to assist the smooth commissioning and provision of cross-border health services. I look at my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd as I say that, as I know it will be of interest to him.
Proposed new section 14Z46 allows ICBs to raise additional income for improving the health service, provided this does not significantly interfere with the ICB’s ability to perform its functions. ICBs are allowed to make grants or loans to NHS trusts, foundation trusts or voluntary organisations in certain circumstances under proposed new section 14Z47.
Proposed new section 14Z48 gives NHS England the power to publish a document specifying the circumstances in which an ICB is liable to make payments to a provider to pay for services provided under arrangements commissioned by another ICB. This provision could, for instance, enable NHS England to specify that where a person uses an urgent care service commissioned by an integrated care board other than the integrated care board ordinarily responsible for that person’s healthcare, the cost of that service is charged to the latter integrated care board. Proposed new section 14Z49 places a requirement on NHS England to publish guidance for ICBs on the discharge of their functions, which ICBs must have regard to.
This clause also inserts proposed new section 14Z50, which requires each ICB, alongside its partner NHS trusts and foundation trusts, to prepare a joint plan setting out how it will exercise its functions over the next five years. This plan must, in particular, detail how the ICB plans to continuously improve services, reduce health inequalities, take into account the wider effects of decisions, involve and consult the public in decision making, meet its financial duties and implement any relevant joint local health and wellbeing strategies.
The plan may be revised as provided for under proposed new section 14Z51. By requiring ICBs to undertake long-term planning, we will ensure that a long-term strategic approach is taken to commissioning. ICBs are required to publish plans and send them to NHS England, the relevant integrated care partnership and any relevant health and wellbeing boards. They are also required to consult widely when developing forward plans, including on whether the plan adequately reflects health and wellbeing strategies.
Proposed new section 14Z52 sets out consultation requirements, and proposed new section 14Z53 explains how health and wellbeing boards can provide their opinions in relation to the forward plans. These provisions will ensure that ICBs are accountable and responsive to the people who use the health system, and that they take into account local needs and priorities when developing commissioning plans.
Under proposed new section 14Z54, before the start of each financial year an ICB and its partner NHS trusts and foundation trusts must prepare a plan setting out their planned capital resource use in relation to the period that the Secretary of State directs. NHS England may give directions as to which capital resources need to be taken into account in the plan. Proposed new section 14Z55 allows for that plan to be revised and sets out how it must be published and shared transparently.
Under proposed new sections 14Z56 to 14Z59, at the end of each financial year ICBs must report to NHS England on how they have discharged their functions, and NHS England must undertake and publish a performance assessment of ICBs. NHS England may require an ICB to provide NHS England with any necessary documents or other information. Where an ICB is deemed to be failing to discharge a function or at risk of doing so, NHS England will have powers to intervene. This will ensure that there are strong lines of accountability from ICBs through NHS England to Parliament, as well as public transparency.
Finally, proposed new section 14Z60 provides that ICBs are permitted to disclose information obtained in the exercise of their functions if it meets the lawful requirements, and proposed new section 14Z61 defines the terms used in this new chapter inserted into the National Health Service Act 2006.
Thank you for your forbearance, Ms Elliott, but I am sure you will agree that this clause covers a lot of key elements, and it is essential for setting out the core functions of ICBs and placing statutory duties on ICBs to deliver our priorities of reducing health inequalities and promoting integration with health and social care services. Moreover, the clause establishes clear lines of accountability and commitments to transparency that are essential for ensuring that ICBs are adequately held to account. I commend the clause to the Committee.
I am grateful to the Minister for that herculean effort in listing all the powers and responsibilities of ICBs. For a permissive Bill, the fact that it sets out 12 duties suggests that the pendulum has swung a little bit further than the Minister was perhaps prepared to admit on Tuesday. Of course, the number would have been even higher had our amendment been accepted, but there we go; a dozen is still an impressive amount. However, it is really about what that means in practice.
The Minister referred to the duty whereby ICBs are required to promote awareness of the NHS constitution. In the context of the debate that we have just had on NHS waiting lists, it strikes me as similar to the scene—it might be familiar to many Members—at the end of each “Bullseye” episode, when the speedboat that the unlucky contestant had not succeeded in getting was brought out, so as to say, “Look what you could have won!” In this case, it is, “Look what the NHS constitution says about waiting times. By the way, we are not delivering on that for you.” That is the nub of some of the duties—how will they be enforced in practice? The Minister referred to mechanisms for NHS England intervention, although we would have liked that to be further strengthened with specific reference to waiting lists.
I note that in proposed new section 14Z59(4), NHS England has retained the ability to terminate the appointment of an ICB chief executive, but also to direct the chair of the board as to which individual to appoint as their replacement and on what terms. That is quite a strong power. The way I read that, if NHS England decides to get rid of someone, it, and it alone, will decide who will replace them. That really goes against the spirit of what we have been discussing for the last couple of days. Would the Minister be able to allay my fears in that respect, or at least put into context the circumstances in which that clause might operate?
I was interested to hear what the Minister said about proposed new section 14Z47 and ICBs’ ability to offer grants and loans on whatever terms they see fit. It now seems that the “B” in ICB stands for bank, or possibly building society. Obviously, at the moment these bodies do not exist in law and so have no capital resources to draw on to create such grants or loans, but of course that will change in due course. Again, will the Minister advise the Committee in what kind of situations that might be a possibility?
Finally, I draw the Committee’s attention to the powers and responsibilities in proposed new section 14Z52, on health and wellbeing boards’ comments about forward plans. Like much of this, it is a process-driven, tick-box exercise where people have to “take regard” and explain why they are not doing something that everyone else has asked them to do. A whole lot of this raises the question: in a disagreement, what are the levers to get proper accountability and change that the whole of the system, apart from the ICB, wants to see?
Although I entirely support clause 19 as an essential ingredient of the Bill that will provide certainty and legal confidence to ICBs, I wish to draw the Minister’s attention again to the duty to promote research. The past year has demonstrated the increased engagement, across all healthcare settings, in research and those activities relating to the pandemic.
Research demonstrates the enormous benefits not only to patients, but to organisations that see improved outcomes, lower mortality rates and increased confidence in care as a result of being research-led organisations. It also shows the staggering gross value added that is produced within the NHS—£2.7 billion in 2018-19, through the National Institute for Health Research clinical research network that supports clinical research activities. For every patient recruited on to a commercial trial between 2016 and 2018, the NHS in England received more than £9,000. When a drug is replaced by a new one—a trial drug—there is another saving of nearly £6,000.
Research not only improves lives; we know it saves lives. I am a passionate advocate for expanding our research and development capacity across society if we are to succeed as global Britain. That is one reason we have that cross-Government target of raising the amount spent on R&D, both public and private, to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.
I want to come back to this idea of the duty to promote research. I recall serving on the Bill Committee for what became the Health and Social Care Act 2012, when the duty to promote research was first written into legislation, with the duty on CCGs. That has now been transferred across in the text for ICBs, in proposed new sections 14Z39 and 14Z40 to the National Health Service Act 2006.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd mentioned, the duty to promote may not be strong enough. I do not have an amendment to hand, but I wanted to raise this point more generally so that the Minister and his Bill team might give it some consideration. Given that ICSs are established as the strategic system leaders for the NHS and partner organisations to deliver integrated care and take that whole-systems approach, research will have to be a core element of ICSs’ regional plans if we are to maximise the strengths of the NHS, our world-leading science capability and the opportunities I have spoken about.
I therefore urge the Government to consider whether there might be an opportunity to change the duty to promote into a duty to conduct and resource clinical research during the passage of the Bill. It is important to stress that a duty to promote has to be accompanied by the necessary infrastructure: staffing levels, research capability, digital resources, access to services, efficient trial approval processes, the ability to reliably recruit patients, guidance and dedicated staff time for research. The whole idea of “promotion” is doing a lot of heavy lifting. There might be an opportunity for us to be more detailed in creating a duty to conduct and resource clinical research.
Such a duty—this has been raised with me—would present the opportunity that research brings to highlight clinical inequalities within the NHS. We need to be able to measure research activity; we cannot manage or even promote research activity unless we are able to measure it effectively. With that comes the whole question of clinical auditing—making sure that there is an effective auditing process in place to ensure that research-led activities are able to be effectively measured and therefore effectively managed. I am sure that that will be raised in the other place during the passage of the Bill. I act as a canary in the coalmine to provide the Minister with due warning that I am sure these debates will come up during the passage of the Bill in the other place.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Elliott.
I have some questions for the Minister about the cross-border joint committees. I would, of course, be happy if he could answer them this afternoon, but he if wishes to have a period of further consideration I would be content for him to write to the Committee with the answers.
Clause 19 sets down the prescribed functions of an integrated care board that can be exercised jointly with the local health board in Wales. This is to be the responsibility of joint committees. The clause replaces the regulations in the National Health Service Act 2006, which provide that any prescribed functions of a clinical commissioning group can be exercised jointly with local health boards. The immediate questions for me are quite obvious—the who, what, why and how sort of questions—and I have not seen any details on this matter as yet, although I might have missed something.
As to my questions to the Minister, first, the why is quite clear: people from Wales access specialist services in England, as I am sure the hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd would point out if I did not. People from border areas, but also from the far north-west of Wales where I live, access services in Manchester and are very glad to do so. Indeed, people from England access services in Wales as well, although that is less remarked on. Cross-border traffic is usually couched in terms of dependency from Wales, but it might interest the Committee to know that in 2019, 13,500 people from Wales accessed GP services in England, while at the same time, 21,000 people from England accessed GP services in Wales. That might, of course, be something to do with the free prescriptions provided by the Labour Government in Wales—I could not possibly comment.
To be clear, as a Plaid Cymru Member and a nationalist, I think co-operation is not just desirable but essential to ensure that fair and effective cross-border arrangements are in place. There will, no doubt, be opportunities to compare and contrast and to learn from each other. As I said, however, I would like the Minister to address some of my questions. This is not an exhaustive list.
First, to what degree have the Welsh Government played a part in drawing up the arrangements for joint committees? I am sure there have been discussions. For example, how will the membership of joint committees be decided? There has been a good deal of concern in debates in this Committee about private providers having seats on ICBs, as we have already heard. Pertinently to this matter, the private sector has a lesser role in the provision of health and social care in Wales. We are not talking about identical services here. The private sector might have a greater prominence on the other side of the border. Has it been agreed with the Welsh Government that private providers are to have seats on joint committees or not? If so, what safeguards will be in place to prevent the conflicts of interest that were referred to on Tuesday?
What structures will be in place to ensure that there is national Welsh consistency in decision making between the joint committees along the border? Will there be a national framework, although perhaps that is the responsibility of the Welsh Government rather than the Government here in Westminster, for coming to agreements on the delivery of services, or will it be up to the local joint committees, with the danger of a postcode lottery? As I said, I think this might be a matter for the Welsh Government rather than the Government here in Westminster. It has been agreed, I hope, so I would like to know what was agreed.
Lastly, in respect of the detailed points, to whom will the joint committees be accountable: to their respective ICBs or health boards, to the Government, or to the ICB on one side and the Welsh Government on the other? How will that be done? Indeed, when consultation—wide consultation, I hope—is undertaken, will it happen across the border as well? Will Welsh patients be able to have their say? There are more questions that I will pursue, and more will surely arise as the joint committees begin their work. I hope the Minister appreciates that these matters need further explanation.
Finally, I have three broader points. Perhaps the Minister can clarify whether there have been discussions on these points and what has been decided about the services provided over the border. First, I am worried about divergence in health policy between Wales and England. There is a wellbeing approach to health in Wales, as I said in the debates on Tuesday. Might any difficulties arise from that? There might be some difference between what is available in Wales and what is available over the border.
Secondly—this is a particularly important matter where I live—has there been any discussion on whether services provided from England into Wales are consistent with the Welsh language requirements of the Welsh health service? I think there is a problem here, and some services provided into Wales from England are really aware of this. I think of the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Gobowen, which has Welsh-language services for people coming in from Wales. The hospital is just outside Oswestry, not far from the border. That is an issue to be examined, and perhaps to be answered by the Minister today or in a letter.
Lastly—this is more of a point in law, or possibly a philosophical point—can ICBs, which are ultimately the responsibility of the Government here in Westminster, be accountable to the Welsh Government, who have their power devolved from London? To put it more directly, can the Welsh Government peck up the pecking order towards bodies over in England? That has been a real question for services provided from outside Wales by Government bodies or agencies. Over many years, there has been quite a debate about bilingualism in the services provided into Wales by the Department for Work and Pensions. Again, that might not be a problem, but I would be grateful for the Minister’s views on this issue and on the other questions that I have raised.
I am grateful, as ever, to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood for his comments. I hope I can reassure him that the issues he raised, and the issues that he has aired in the Committee today, will continue to be reflected on carefully by officials and Ministers during the passage of the Bill.
I will try to address the specific points raised by the hon. Members for Ellesmere Port and Neston and for Arfon. The hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston touched on the appointment of chief executives and the termination of appointments. That power is broadly akin to the current power that CCGs have, and we are simply moving across the power that NHS England has over CCGs to reflect the new environment of integrated care boards.
I am grateful for the clarification from the Minister, but does that not expose our fear that, really, ICBs are just bigger CCGs?
No, because at the heart of ICBs is an enhanced integration and partnership-working model, which will be a significant step forward to facilitate improved patient care in our constituencies and localities.
The power to make loans is analogous to the power that exists for CCGs.
The hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston touched on forward plans and health and wellbeing boards. The ICB will have an obligation to consult the health and wellbeing board, including in respect of whether it takes into account the latest joint health and wellbeing strategy and provides the HWB with a copy of its plan.
On Wales, I fear that I may have to write to the hon. Member for Arfon with some of the answers, but I shall try to give some now so that he has at least something today. We are seeking not to make a policy change or anything like that but to carry the existing situation for CCGs across into the new arrangement. We have been consulting and working closely with the Welsh Government. I suspect that, as we heard from the witnesses, some in the Welsh Government may suggest that we should consult more closely, while others will say the consultation is adequate. I believe I have a good relationship with the Health Minister in the Welsh Government—I spoke to her only yesterday about a number of aspects of the Bill—and at official level conversations are constantly ongoing.
The hon. Member for Arfon touched on joint committees, which will involve ICBs and their Welsh equivalents. We would not expect private providers to serve on them because they will in effect exercise an ICB function. On Tuesday, I made it clear to the Committee that it is not our intention that private providers should serve on ICBs, so they should not serve on joint committees either. We will have further discussions with the Opposition Front-Bench team and others as to whether we can find a way to make that clearer in the legislation.
Finally, accountability remains essentially unchanged. The NHS in Wales is accountable to the Welsh Government and ICBs will be accountable to NHS England and, therefore, to the Secretary of State. The hon. Member for Arfon touched on the challenge of divergence or disparity of provision. I suspect that, in a sense, it comes baked into a devolution settlement that when power is devolved down there is sometimes a divergence of approach or there are different services. That is in the nature of any devolution settlement where specific services or functions are devolved. For example, as we have seen in our exiting from coronavirus regulations, the devolved Administrations have the right, under the settlement, to pursue the approach that they deem to be most effective.