Friday 20 January 2017
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
January Agriculture Council
The Agriculture and Fisheries Council will take place on 23 January in Brussels. I will represent the United Kingdom.
As the provisional agenda stands, the primary focus will be an exchange of views on agricultural products in free trade agreements.
There will also be an information item on the dairy market and milk package report. This will be followed by a Council discussion.
The Maltese presidency, whose presidency term commenced on 1 January, will present their six-month work programme to the Council.
There is currently only one item scheduled under “any other business”:
Conclusions of the 40th Conference of Directors of Paying Agencies (tabled by the Slovak delegation).
Until exit negotiations are concluded, the UK remains a full member of the European Union and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force. The outcome of these negotiations will determine what arrangements apply in relation to EU legislation in future once the UK has left the EU.
Children’s Mental Health In-patient Services
I would like to update the House following a point of order on this issue on 12 April 2016 (Col 183) made by my predecessor, the right hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt), former Minister of State for Community and Social Care, who met the voluntary and community sector organisation that brought this issue to light with the BBC. He was able to have a useful discussion with them on the key problems and potential solutions. He made the commitment to look into this issue and set out how this will be improved in the future.
Deaths in children’s in-patient mental health services are rare events. Every preventable death, especially in young people, is a tragedy and it is important that they are properly recorded so that lessons can be learned and action taken where necessary. There can be particular challenges in the way deaths are registered and classified. There can be a time lag before an inquest concludes on the cause of death and where a young person is concerned; there may be a lack of clarity around intent, so that the cause of death may not be classified as suicide.
Officials have now made a detailed assessment of the available data. I can confirm that there have been 11 deaths of patients under the care of mental health in-patient services, both inside and outside of the premises since January 2013. It is not possible to provide an accurate figure on the number of deaths prior to this time period, due to the commissioning arrangements and data collection methods which were in place at that time. It is with regret that I cannot provide a figure for this earlier time period. However, I am fully committed to making sure that we are able to improve on this in the future.
Following assessment of the data, the right hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire brought into effect increased oversight in this area. As of June 2016, both the Minister with responsibility for mental health and the Secretary of State for Health receive an immediate report of any death in a children’s in-patient mental health setting or on home leave from such services where they occur. We will simultaneously notify the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide if a self-inflicted death has occurred in these circumstances, so that both the figures and clinical lessons can be captured as part of annual reports, which will be made available to Parliament. This will provide insights for national and local organisations to take on board. We have written to providers of children’s mental health in-patient services to remind them of the responsibilities of their reporting duties.
A report by the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide on Suicide in Children and Young People, which was published on 26 May 2016, shows that 60% of those who had died had not been in contact with mental health services at all. This illustrates the urgent need to make sure that children and young people can access mental health services to prevent such tragedies in future. The ambitious transformation programme that has been put in place to ensure that young people receive the support they need is designed to do just that.
We know that we need to improve the system of investigating deaths of mental health patients. The Government and local providers are working hard on the implementation of the Mental Health Taskforce report which will address these issues, and the House will be kept informed. Also, the Secretary of State recently announced a series of measures in response to the Care Quality Commission’s report “Learning, candour and accountability” that will require NHS trusts and foundation trusts to improve their understanding of deaths arising from problems in care and demonstrate the learning and action that follows.
On behalf of both previous and current Ministers, I am grateful to those who have brought this matter to our attention in the House.
Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council: December 2016
The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 8 December in Brussels. For the health part of the meeting, the UK was represented by the Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU. The meeting featured one substantive item about the European semester and health, and a number of other items as part of the “any other business” section of the agenda.
On the topic of the European semester, the UK stressed member state competence and the importance of maintaining a narrow focus for the semester. Regarding the involvement of Health Ministers in discussions about the semester, the UK stated that it had no objection to focused discussions, although added that Health Ministers are already engaged through national co-ordination. Discussions about this issue will continue under the Maltese presidency.
Under the AOB part of the agenda, the UK presented on the candidacy of Dr David Nabarro for Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The UK emphasised Dr Nabarro’s UN experience—including on cholera, food security and sustainable development—and stressed that he has demonstrated a reform-minded approach and is committed to transforming organisational effectiveness. The UK stated that he had the backing of the Prime Minister and chief medical officer.
On antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the UK stressed the importance of keeping up momentum following the recent agreement of a declaration on AMR at the UN General Assembly, and outlined areas where work needed to be focused; including on research and innovation, the development of new products, on implementing national action plans and on benchmarking.
There were also discussions on alcohol, about the production of paediatric medicines, and about follow-up work relating to Council conclusions on pharmaceuticals. The EU Commission provided an update on European reference networks, as well as feedback about the report “State of Health in the EU”, which it has jointly published with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. There was also an update about the discussions held at the recent conference of the parties to the WHO framework convention on tobacco control.
Finally, there were updates about recent conferences, and Malta provided an overview of priorities for its presidency, commencing on 1 January.
Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme
On 23 December 2016, the Government published the level of payment due from members of the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) in 2017 to keep health service spend on branded medicines within the levels agreed under the scheme.
The Department of Health and the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry have agreed in principle to amend chapter 6 of the 2014 PPRS in accordance with paragraph 3.4 of the scheme in order that the scheme continues to deliver its agreed objectives of predictability and stability to Government and industry, and to ensure that the cost of branded medicines to the NHS stays within affordable limits. The effect of the changes is that the payment percentage for 2017 is to be set at 4.75% for 2017, and the 2018 PPRS payment percentage will be determined by reference to the existing PPRS payment mechanism, provided that the resulting percentage falls within the lower and upper limits of 2.38% and 7.80%. The Government recognises the additional contribution being made by the pharmaceutical industry in acknowledgement of the financial challenges facing the NHS.
The Department has published a document setting out further details entitled “Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) 2014: revised payment percentages at December 2016”.
Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-01-20/HCWS426/.