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Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:19 pm on 25th March 2010.

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Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour 4:19 pm, 25th March 2010

The debate is certainly the end of the beginning, and not just for the reason that Derek Brownlee gave, which was that public service reform will be a major theme of the next few years, but because regulations will assume a new importance under the bill. I will not go over the debates about part 2—I hope that there might not be too many regulations made under it—but there have not been many comments about how the rest of the bill depends to a new extent on regulation. I will concentrate on part 4.

I regret that parts 4 and 5 have not in general attracted more discussion and amendment. To an extent, that is because members have a great deal of confidence in the existing bodies that those parts deal with—the Social Work Inspection Agency and the Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care, which will turn into social care and social work improvement Scotland, and Quality Improvement Scotland, which will turn into healthcare improvement Scotland. I pay tribute to their work. However, there are significant shifts in the inspection regime—for SCSWIS in particular—that merit discussion. I hope that we will have further discussion when the regulations come before the Parliament.

I said in committee that we all accept the principle of a move towards risk-based inspection, but the detail of that merits more scrutiny. In committee, I raised the issue of the extent to which self-evaluation is beginning to take over from inspection. I had an amendment passed at stage 2 that I hope will modify that process to some extent. Inspection has to be reasserted as a key part of the scrutiny regime. There will be real dangers if we move too much towards self-evaluation.

The second issue that I want to raise, which should also be discussed when regulations are laid, is to do with the timing and frequency of inspections. Some members in the chamber—certainly the Minister for Public Health and Sport—will remember that nine years ago a major feature of debate about the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Bill was that there should be two inspections a year for all 24-hour services. That has disappeared from the new legislative regime without any discussion whatever. People might have different views on that—they might see it as being part of risk-based inspection—but it has served us well for nine years. When the regulations are introduced, we should think carefully and decide whether there is merit in having regular inspections as well as additional inspections for services that are in difficulty. We will need to pay particularly close attention to the regulations under section 47 when they are introduced.

The regulations under section 97, which pertain to joint inspection, will also be important. There is a particular concern, which I raised in the stage 1 debate, about access to medical records. I know that there will be work and consultation on that, but we need to look seriously at the British Medical Association's suggestion that there should be such access only with consent and that, if consent is not given, there should be anonymisation.