Clause 83

Health and Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 19th October 2021.

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Collection of information about adult social care

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

I beg to move amendment 143, in clause 83, page 73, line 23, after “assistance” insert

“or any form of reablement and rehabilitation provided under section 2 of the Care Act 2014 to reduce the need for care and support”.

This amendment is consequential on NC47.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 47—Registration of tertiary prevention activities in respect of provision of social care—

“(1) Section 9 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 is amended in accordance with subsection (2).

(2) In subsection (3), at end insert ‘or any form of reablement and rehabilitation provided under section 2 of the Care Act 2014 to reduce the need for care and support’.”

This new clause would bring reablement and rehabilitation provided under section 2 of the Care Act 2014 to reduce the need for care and support into the purview of the Care Quality Commission.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

These measures would bring reablement and rehabilitation provided under section 2 of the Care Act 2014, for the purpose of reducing the need for care and support, into the purview of the Care Quality Commission. Unlike other adult social care functions, rehabilitation and reablement services are not currently part of regulated adult social care activities. There is no reporting, guidance on service standards, monitoring or inspection. That is despite the fact that rehab activities carry a level of risk similar to that of other adult social care interventions. This is particularly pertinent because rehabilitation services will be critical for those who are recovering from long covid.

One example that would fit into this category is vision rehabilitation. There is evidence from the Royal National Institute of Blind People that there are individuals who have been waiting since 2018 for their vision rehab. That will, of course, have been affected by the pandemic. However, those waiting more than two years, who have had this very profound change in their lives, need to develop new skills that they previously would have relied on their sight to achieve. The sooner that can be done, the better, because there are going to be so many other obstacles to adapt to.

The pandemic alone is not reason enough to offer comfort there. In the RNIB’s research, an inquiry made to lead councillors for adult social care in England last year found that about four in 10 did not know that vision rehabilitation formed part of that portfolio. An element of that will be because it is an unregulated function. Having been such a portfolio holder, I remember that you are very conscious of regulated provision in your area, because of the seriousness that comes with that, and I want to explore this gap a little.

Of course, the past 18 months have been extraordinary circumstances. Being a regulated activity on the same level of other adult social care activities would not fix the problems on its own, but it would have made a difference. It would certainly have given those gaps greater prominence. That might have been the beginning of addressing them. Indeed, there is a sense in the sector that this level of regulation would improve the visibility and priority of these services to senior managers and lead members by allowing for better data collection, for guidance, for quality standards to be developed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, and for inspection services by the Care Quality Commission.

I will not say much more on that. It may well be that this is not the best mechanism to do those things, but I would be keen to understand why this particular element of adult social care is unregulated when so much effort is put into regulating other elements of it. Rehabilitation and reablement are particularly important.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

I am grateful to the shadow Minster for tabling the amendment and enabling us to have this discussion and air this issue. I understand his intentions in the amendment and new clause 47. It is right that social care services are appropriately and effectively regulated, and this includes rehabilitation and reablement. However, I do not believe that the amendment and the new clause are the right way of achieving the intended outcome.

Where providers carry out regulated activities as defined under schedule 1 to the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014, rehabilitation and reablement services are already within the scope of the CQC’s activities. As such, most rehabilitation and reablement services are CQC registered and are usually carrying on the regulated activities of accommodation, personal care, and treatment of disease, disorder or injury.

The definition of social care in section 9 of the 2008 Act is already sufficiently broad to cover reablement and rehabilitation provided under section 2 of the Care Act 2014. If there are concerns about the scope of CQC regulatory activities in relation to these services, they would perhaps be more appropriately picked up as part of the ongoing review of the 2014 Regulations. That work would probably sit better there. We intend to publish the response to that public consultation on the review in due course. For that reason, I would encourage the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment and perhaps seek to use that process and that review as the mechanism by which to further air these issues.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

I am grateful for that reassurance. That does provide comfort, certainly on the CQC aspect. The driver behind the amendment was as much that the CQC sharpens its focus for local authorities. I am not quite sure that we have got to the point where this will close that gap. However, there is a good mechanism by which to do so, so I might pursue this later, rather than pushing it to a Division.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

This clause inserts a new chapter 3 into the Health and Social Care Act 2012, relating to information about adult social care. It introduces a new power for the Secretary of State to require regulated adult social care providers to provide information relating to themselves, their activities or individuals they have provided care to. The information may be sought only for purposes connected with the health or adult social care system in England, and its processing will need to comply with the UK general data protection regulation. Disclosure of commercially sensitive information is restricted under new section 277B(2).

As the shadow Minister set out, the clause enables the Secretary of State to delegate this function to the Health and Social Care Information Centre—known to its friends as NHS Digital—or to a special health authority, or to arrange for other persons to exercise them. Any such person would be subject to the restrictions on onward disclosure set out in new section 277B in the same way as the Secretary of State.

The clause is crucial for helping us to fill data gaps, understand more about self-funders and better manage emergency situations. Data from local authorities can show only part of the picture, as individuals who privately fund care have little or no contact with a local authority. That needs to be addressed to support local authorities to manage provider markets and secure improved outcomes for all receiving care and support.

The provisions will support a consistent and transparent approach to the processing of data across privately and publicly funded care to enable improved safety and quality of provision. Without that data, our ability to effectively identify and manage emerging risks and issues and to take appropriate action will be restricted.

The clause will enable us to collect higher-quality and more timely information, fill data gaps, support high-quality provision of services, and manage risks at local, regional and national levels. I therefore commend it to the Committee.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care) 10:30 am, 19th October 2021

To date we have discussed 83 clauses, and we might finally have found a little note of integration. Local authorities not only want to share their data, but they want a greater sense of the data that they do not have, as the Minister said. They are desperate to do this. They want the all the needs of their service users to be met, but they are frustrated by a system that is atomised and hard to navigate. We know that that is also exhausting for patients and their families. I know that local authorities will jump at the chance to use the provisions effectively, but I have a couple of questions.

First, is there an expectation and obligation that the data sharing will be a two-way street? There are times when local authorities are frustrated about their ability to get information either out from the centre or from local health services. I would not want that opportunity to be missed. Secondly, to reiterate a point I made earlier, it is a pain getting systems to talk to each other. Will the Minister and his officials look at what support and time may be needed to implement the measures?

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

I am, as ever, grateful to the shadow Minister. On his final question, about the burden of the additional data that we want to collect, which is a fair one, the aim is to reach a point where we can collect and share data across the sector in a way that minimises those collection burdens. That will include giving careful consideration to the frequency and nature of data collection. We will seek feedback from those engaged in the process and carry out appropriate assessments of it.

The capacity tracker, which is a web-based digital insight tool that we used to collect provider data in near-real time to help manage the pandemic, currently has a very high completion rate. We do not anticipate that any further mandated collection will create a significant burden in addition to that tracker. We learned during the pandemic that it is one of the things that will have beneficial applications in future. The capacity tracker currently operates on a voluntary basis, but it has high sectoral coverage—about 95% of adult social care providers are voluntarily using it. That, I suspect, is motivated by the infection control fund incentives, but our intention is to make it as simple and as easy as possible for people to continue using the tracker without imposing a burden on them. We recognise, however, that if those incentives are not there, the balance of burden and compliance changes, so we are looking at longer-term collections, which would likely be required far less frequently than the frequent iterations involved in managing a pandemic.

We therefore believe that we have struck the right balance, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that we will continue to keep the matter under review and seek to strike the appropriate balance.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 83 ordered to stand part of the Bill.