Skip to main content

Health: Pathfinders

Volume 734: debated on Thursday 12 January 2012


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what support and guidance is being offered to pathfinder clinical commissioning groups in commissioning integrated health and social care services.

My Lords, pathfinders are receiving national and local development support. With their SHA and PCT cluster, pathfinders are exploring approaches to clinical commissioning, including integration of health and social care. Key to this will be engagement with local authorities and secondary care. Our national learning network allows pathfinders to share learning and best practice. Pathfinders will be authorised to take on their full commissioning functions only when the NHS Commissioning Board is certain that they are ready.

I thank the Minister for his reply. He outlined the fact that local authorities will play a key role in this new world. We hope that they will commission for patients and not for the condition. For the health and well-being boards to operate effectively, they, too, need support. What support are the Government able to offer, and what support are they offering pathfinder health and well-being boards within local government at present?

My noble friend is right. We were very pleased to see the NHS Future Forum says that running right through the Health and Social Care Bill is the desire and aim to integrate services. That is certainly right. We recognise that there is a balance to be struck between allowing local ideas to spring up and people to progress their own ideas and having the necessary support from the centre to do that. We have established a national learning network for pathfinders to complement the support given to them by strategic health authorities and PCTs. Those learning networks will ensure that best practice is spread and, specifically, that pathfinders support other local groups which are less developed.

My Lords, perhaps I may ask a question concerning clinical commissioning groups and the legal advice and support they might be receiving. Has the Minister taken advice on the impact of EU procurement law as regards the tension in commissioning and delivering integrated services and the legal requirements concerning procurement of services which are integral to the Health and Social Care Bill that is before the House? Will the Minister make any such advice available to us?

My Lords, my understanding is that procurement law, which already applies in the NHS, is certainly part of the learning sets that clinical commissioning groups have been provided with. I would be delighted to supply the noble Baroness with further information but I do not have it in front of me.

Can my noble friend confirm that the NHS will take fully into account the success of pilot pathfinder projects in places as diverse as Newcastle, Swindon and Bedfordshire so that the NHS itself encourages the development of pathfinder projects? Will he also take into account the fact that GP co-operatives were very successful as long as they lasted, but the discouragement they were given by the previous Government brought a disastrous end to some very good schemes?

I am grateful to my noble friend. I think everybody agrees that integrating services, however one defines that—although the common denominator is surely from the point of view of the patient—is a good thing. We do not wish to lose sight of the lessons that have been learnt so effectively in the places mentioned by my noble friend. It is true that other areas have yet to catch up. We recognise that, and the focus over the next 12 months will be very much on sharing the lessons that have been learnt by the pathfinders that we know are working well.

Does the Minister agree that the success of this scheme depends a great deal on the facilities within the health service becoming much more community orientated and much more available to people in the community? It is not either social services or the health service. Both have to play their part. What are the Government doing to achieve that?

I do recognise that. It gave rise to the fairly famous quote by Sir David Nicholson, the chief executive of the NHS, who went down to Torbay to see the work being done there. He came away saying:

“I have seen the future and the future is Torbay”.

There was good reason for him to say that because Torbay has established close relationships between social workers, district nurses, therapists and allied health professionals through a single point of contact so that intermediate care services are delivered effectively, thus avoiding the need for patients to be admitted to hospital.

Can the Minister tell me—sorry, I would have given way to the right reverend Prelate. I had better press on. Does the Minister believe that the new legislation will change the problem that has always existed—that social care always felt that health should pay and health always felt that social care should pay? There may be good will and a wish to integrate, but can he assure me that the new financial systems in the health service will cover this point and prevent that problem continuing?

My noble friend is right. This has been a perennial problem. We are addressing it in a number of ways. There are measures in the Bill which lay out duties on bodies. We are constructing the outcomes framework in a way that encourages integration of services with the right metrics. We are trying to align the outcomes framework in the NHS with that for social care and public health as well so that everybody is working to the same agenda.