On 11 July 2017, the Prime Minister announced that a full, independent public inquiry would be held into the contaminated blood scandal of the 1970s and 1980s, and promised to work with the victims and families of those affected by this tragedy in order to decide what form the inquiry should take. Since then, we have been listening to views from the affected community and have received over 800 written responses to the consultation, which closed on 18 October.
I am keen for the inquiry to proceed as quickly as possible in order to provide those affected with the answers they deserve. Taking into account the views of those who responded to the consultation, I am announcing today that responsibility for setting up the independent inquiry will transfer from the Department of Health to the Cabinet Office with immediate effect. I am also announcing that this will be a full statutory public inquiry, created under the 2005 Inquiries Act.
The Cabinet Office has now taken receipt of all the response to the consultation, which it will analyse thoroughly. This work will be completed as quickly as possible, and a further announcement will follow before the end of the year on the setting up of the inquiry.
Today I am announcing that DEFRA and the Environment Agency (EA) will be undertaking a review of multi-agency flood plans produced by local resilience forums (LRFs) in England. These plans are used by local responders (including the emergency services, local authorities, local NHS and others) to co-ordinate their response to flood incidents.
The multi-agency flood plan (MAFP) review is part of the Government’s ongoing work to address flood risk. We are investing £2.5 billion to better protect the country from flooding. This includes over 1,500 flood defence schemes, which will better protect more than 300,000 properties by 2021. As we approach winter, we have improved our capability to deploy military assistance and invested in our ability to respond to flooding. For example, the Environment Agency now has 25 miles of temporary barriers and we have 1,200 military troops trained to assist in flood response.
LRFs are at the forefront of local emergency response to a wide range of incidents. The MAFP review will look at the effectiveness and consistency of current flood plans. It will also identify good practice and advise on how it can be spread, to help make sure we have the best plans in place across the country.
This DEFRA review will be led and overseen by an independent external reviewer. I am delighted that Major General Tim Cross CBE (retired) has agreed to take on this role. General Cross had a distinguished 35 year career in the British Army. He has since served as an adviser to the House of Commons Defence Committee, and he is currently president of the institute of civil protection and emergency management.
General Cross will be supported by a group of specialists in resilience and emergency planning, including from LRFs. Membership of this group will be confirmed in due course.
The review will examine around 30 strategic flood plans and over 600 tactical flood plans related to specific districts. General Cross and the external advisory group, supported by DEFRA and the Environment Agency, will undertake a qualitative review, visiting LRFs and identifying best practice. This will inform the revision of DEFRA guidance on how to produce good MAFPs.
The review is due to be completed by the end of May 2018.
The Government are also undertaking wider reviews into LRF preparedness. The MAFP review will be taken forward with due consideration to this wider work.
The terms of reference for the review will be published on the GOV.UK website today. The findings of the review will be published on GOV.UK in due course.
Today, the Government and its partners (NHS England, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, National Institute for Health Research, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, NHS Improvement, Academic Health Science Networks) are publishing a joint commitment to deliver the vision of the independently chaired accelerated access review (AAR). We thank Sir Hugh Taylor and his team for their excellent work to develop the compelling arguments and recommendations in the AAR.
The Government’s ambition is that NHS patients should be among the first in the world to get life-changing treatments. Achieving this goal is only possible by working in close partnership with our world-leading life sciences sector. Our response to the accelerated access review (AAR) sets out how we will work with industry and the health system to create a streamlined and sophisticated approvals system so that cost-effective breakthrough products—be they drugs, devices, digital or diagnostics—can get to NHS patients as fast as possible.
There are already many excellent examples of innovation taking place across the NHS, including world-leading advances in genetic technology, new treatments for conditions such as hepatitis C and ground-breaking methods to diagnose conditions. We are committed to building on this excellent work to ensure that the NHS is one of the most pro-innovation healthcare systems in the world, and that it is recognised as such by patients and industry.
It is essential that we balance our commitment to accelerating patient access to life-changing treatments with the financial sustainability of the NHS. To achieve this, it will be vital that our policies are affordable for the NHS and deliver value for money to the taxpayer. We shall leverage our world-leading research base and the NHS’s status as the biggest single-payer healthcare system to make the UK even more competitive and attractive to industry as a place to design, develop and deploy innovative products.
Key elements of our response include:
A new accelerated access collaborative (AAC) chaired by Sir Andrew Witty, that will develop an accelerated access pathway (AAP) to bring breakthrough products to market and then to patients as quickly as possible—streamlining regulatory and market access decisions.
£86m Government funding to support innovators and the NHS in overcoming barriers to getting new, innovative technologies to patients quickly.
Improved NHS England commercial capacity and capability to deliver deals that achieve better value for the NHS and innovators.
The AAR response (17-11-03 AAR Response FINAL.pdf) can be viewed online at:
Friday 3 November 2017