Clause 66 - The NHS payment scheme

Part of Health and Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:45 pm on 23rd September 2021.

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Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 12:45 pm, 23rd September 2021

I would not prejudge the passage of the legislation and how the House might judge it, but I look forward to such a scheme being introduced expeditiously, if I may put it that way to the hon. Member. I hope I can also reassure the Committee in respect of amendment 107, which was not selected but raised issues pertinent to the clause more broadly. This is important. It is right that the amendment was not selected—I appreciate that it was not tabled by a member of the Committee—but it does highlight issues that we need to put on the record. I appreciate the impulse behind it.

Although NHS staff pay and conditions are outside the scope of the proposed payment scheme and are protected by provisions made elsewhere, unions and other representative bodies may wish to be reassured that their members are able to go to work in appropriately funded services. I hope I have given reassurance on that point and set out why I feel the amendment, although I am grateful that it was not selected, would be unnecessary, as the Bill already requires NHS England to consult with integrated care boards, relevant providers and any other person the NHS thinks appropriate before publishing a payment scheme. It must also publish an impact assessment of the proposed scheme, ensuring that any potential consultation is properly informed of the potential effects of the scheme. I appreciate that the amendment was not selected, but I put those points on the record as I can understand the intent behind the amendment and I wanted to offer those reassurances. I hope I can persuade Opposition Members not to press amendments 84 and 100 to a vote, but I may be unlucky in that respect.

Clause 66 introduces schedule 10, which amends the Health and Social Care Act 2012 by repealing the national tariff and replacing it with the new NHS payment scheme. The national tariff has for many years improved access to services and driven up quality across the NHS, but as we move towards a more integrated system focused on prevention, joint working and more care delivered in the community, we need to update the NHS pricing systems to reflect new ways of working since the tariff was introduced, and in the light of the covid-19 pandemic.

The new NHS payment scheme will build on the success of the tariff. It will support stronger collaboration than ever before, with shared incentives for commissioners and providers of services to improve quality of care and promote sustainable use of NHS resources. The scheme will move away from a wholly payment-by-activity approach to an approach that supports more joined-up ways of delivering services, with commissioners and providers working together to deliver the best quality care.

The new payment scheme will remove perverse incentives for patients to be treated in acute settings and allow more patients than ever before to be treated closer to home and in the community. It will allow NHS England to guide the health system, through the development of guide prices for entire care pathways, while ensuring that local systems have the necessary flexibility to deliver high-quality care and use NHS resources sustainably.

The payment scheme will specify rules that commissioners must follow when determining prices paid to providers of NHS-funded healthcare services. It will allow significant flexibility over the current pricing scheme, and allow rules to set prices, formulas and factors that must be considered when determining prices paid. It also allows for in-year modifications to the rules, to reflect changes in the costs of providing services.

Crucially, the scheme will also allow the NHS to set prices for public health services commissioned by the NHS, on behalf of the Secretary of State, such as maternity screening, to allow for seamless funding streams for episodes of care. These changes to increase the flexibility and reduce transactional bureaucracy associated with the current tariff are, we believe, crucial to integrating care and tackling the elective backlog. I therefore commend this clause and schedule to the committee.