Report (2nd Day)
Relevant documents: 15th, 16th and 19th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee, 9th Report from the Constitution Committee
Clause 20: General functions
36: Clause 20, page 21, line 25, at end insert—
“(ba) set out any steps that the integrated care board proposes to take to address the particular needs of children and young persons under the age of 25;”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment requires the joint forward plan for an integrated care board and its partners to set out any steps that the integrated care board proposes to take to address the particular needs of children or young persons under the age of 25.
My Lords, I thank the House for its continued focus on addressing the needs of babies, children and young people and thank noble Lords for bringing forward amendments on this issue again today. I am also really grateful to noble Lords who have engaged with the me and my officials, and I hope that this has resulted in amendments that your Lordships’ House feels that it can support.
I start with Amendment 36, in my name. This amendment will require an integrated care board to set out any steps that it proposes to take to address the particular needs of children and young people under the age of 25 in the forward plan. In addition, the Government have committed to produce a package of bespoke guidance, which explains how the ICB and the ICP should meet the needs of babies, children, young people and families. This guidance will contain provisions for the integrated care partnership’s integrated care strategy to consider child health and well-being outcomes and the integration of children’s services, as well as providing that the integrated care partnership should consult local children’s leadership and children, young people and families themselves, on the strategy.
NHS England has also agreed that it will issue statutory guidance, expecting that one of the ICB executive leads will act as a children’s lead, with responsibility for championing the needs of babies, children and young people. I hope that noble Lords are supportive of this government amendment and its underpinning commitment to support, improve and enhance services for babies, children and young people.
I turn to Amendments 157, 185 and 186. Safeguarding children is a priority for the Government, and we share the horror and concern provoked by the awful murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson. The Government are committed to addressing barriers to safe, timely and appropriate sharing of information to safeguard children, and we have heard clearly the strength of feeling across the House on the value of a consistent identifier for children. In particular, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler of Enfield, and other noble Lords, for pushing us on this issue.
To this end, we are committing in this legislation to publish a report, within one year of the section coming into force, that will describe the Government’s policy on information sharing in relation to children’s health and social care and the safeguarding of children and will include an explanation of the Government’s policy on a consistent identifier for children. It will also include the Government’s approach and actions to implement the policy set out in the report. The Government agree with noble Lords that action is needed. The report will reflect a cross-government position on what actions will be taken to improve safe and appropriate information sharing.
This amendment, of necessity, is limited by reference to health and social care, reflecting the scope of the Bill. However, the report to which this amendment refers will be laid by the Secretary of State for Education, who intends that it will cover improved information sharing between all safeguarding partners, including the NHS, local authorities and the police, as well as education settings. The Department for Education has already started its work, which will look at the feasibility of a common child identifier. I hope these amendments will reassure noble Lords that the Government are committed to safeguarding children and improving services for babies, children and young people. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, the National Children’s Bureau, the Disabled Children’s Partnership and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health for their support with this amendment and for their constructive engagement with the Department of Health and Social Care. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, for adding her name to this amendment.
I welcome the amendments that the Minister has laid relating to the needs of babies, children and young people but, despite the good progress made, this amendment seeks to go further by requiring NHS England to conduct a performance assessment of each ICB in meeting the needs of babies, children and young people in each financial year. This includes its duties concerning the improvement in quality of services and reducing inequalities and the extent of its public involvement and consultation.
There are significant challenges in meeting the health and care needs of children and young people, including their mental health needs, which are different and arguably more complex than for adults. This is particularly the case for disabled children and young people and those with special educational needs. A recent survey by the Disabled Children’s Partnership and the parent campaign group, Let Us Learn Too, found that 40% of families with disabled children have seen their savings wiped out by fighting and paying for support.
I shall give one brief example from the West Midlands. Joanne, whose autistic son also has pathological demand avoidance and communication difficulties, explained that the local authority refused to do an occupational therapy assessment, so she paid for one privately. Eventually, she took the local authority to tribunal at considerable expense in legal fees. Despite winning, it is one year on and still no support is being provided by the local authority.
One in three families with disabled children said they needed publicly unprovided essential therapies for their disabled child, but could not afford them. Some 60% of families with disabled children have sought NHS mental health support for a family member due to the stress of fighting for basic services. The Disabled Children’s Partnership cites individuals feeling a sense of societal resentment toward disabled people, says that carers are persistently undervalued and underrepresented in policy and details the enormous physical, emotional and financial burden they endure in caring for their disabled family member without adequate support from the health and care sectors. Joanne said, furthermore, that the local authority blamed her for her son’s disability and put a child protection plan in place rather than supporting her, although thankfully it was removed shortly afterwards.
Integrated care boards have a crucial role in commissioning primary and community healthcare services directly for babies, children and young people. They will play a key role in the joint commissioning of services for disabled children and those with special educational needs, as well as contributing to education, health and care plans and in the commissioning of joined-up services in the first 1,000 days of life, in which the Government are, importantly, investing. Crucially, ICBs will be jointly responsible for the leadership of local child safeguarding partnerships, together with the police and local authorities.
Yet support for children and young people varies geographically. Local systems find themselves pulled in different directions by different government initiatives and separate pots of funding, which creates a profound risk of destabilising what are relatively new local safeguarding partnerships. The Wood report, published in May 2021, reviewed the new multi-agency safeguarding arrangements put in place by the Children and Social Work Act 2017. It revealed just how stretched the resources are in protecting children, as well as the need for a more effective culture of joined-up working and a more consistent and detailed understanding of the role of the three statutory safeguarding partners—the local authority, the CCG and the chief officer of police. The Wood report also emphasised the importance of accountability regarding the quality of these services and the need for inspectorates and regulators to develop a model to analyse performance against what is deemed to be best practice, something that this amendment goes a long way to trying to achieve.
Perhaps more worryingly, an assessment conducted by NHS England in December found that only three ICBs were considered ready to take on their safeguarding responsibilities, with a remaining 39 still in progress or in need of support. That highlights how important it is that ICBs are both supported and held to account with regard to these duties.
I recognise that the aim of the Bill is not to overprescribe what local systems do, and I agree that ICBs must be free to respond to local need. But to deliver the best outcomes for children, there must be a clear vision for children’s health and welfare that is shared at national and local levels and with the necessary accountability for delivering it. I hope that the Government can provide assurances to your Lordships’ House that all children and young people, including disabled youngsters, will be properly reflected in the NHSE performance assessment frameworks currently being developed, that the role of ICBs in meeting their needs will be an ongoing focus of NHS England and Her Majesty’s Government, and that all ICBs will be supported to be ready to take on their safeguarding responsibilities from July this year.
The proposed amendment would help to deliver on the recommendations of the Wood report by ensuring important multiagency working and accountability for the welfare of babies, children and young people. I urge the Minister to accept the amendment.
I support and very much welcome government Amendments 36, 157 and 185 in response to the powerful debates in Committee on children’s health, safeguarding, data-sharing and particularly the case for a unique identifier for children, on which I put forward an amendment in Committee. I thank the Minister for engaging so fully and positively on these issues and for the various meetings which led to these amendments being tabled. It is also very welcome that Amendment 36 includes children in the Bill, which so many of us have argued for.
On the unique identifier as a means of identifying children in touch with multiple services, aiding safeguarding and promoting joined-up support, I strongly support the government amendment to lay a report before Parliament on information sharing and on a single unique identifier for children. That is a real step forward, and it is clear that the Government acknowledge that there are serious and distinct challenges with sharing relevant information across not just children and social care sectors but others too, including schools and the police.
There is always more to do, so I will never be 100% satisfied and I note that the amendment as tabled does not actually commit the Government to any specific timed action beyond publishing the report. Therefore, it was good to hear the further assurances that the noble Lord, Lord Kamall, gave at the Dispatch Box. I think I heard him say clearly and unequivocally that the Government are committed to developing plans not just to look at the case for but to adopt a single unique identifier for children. I think I also heard a commitment to developing a set of cross-government proposals for implementing that, and then, I hope, acting on the findings of this report within a defined timescale. If the Minister could reiterate those commitments, I would be extremely grateful. I would also welcome a commitment to involving those organisations representing children and young people, who have been so much a part of our discussions and debates, as part of the production of that Bill.
I support Amendment 59 from the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, which I signed, requiring NHS England to assess annually how well each ICB is doing in meeting the needs of children and young people; it provides much-needed accountability and transparency, particularly in relation to the new and crucial safeguarding responsibilities that ICBs are taking on. I welcome the statutory guidance, which I know the Government intend to produce, on having a children’s lead on the board of every ICB. That is really important.
I support the suite of amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Farmer. I will leave him to set out the case for them, but I agree that family hubs play a really important role in improving early intervention services, helping integration and data sharing among public services and involving the voluntary sector. Importantly, and germane to this Bill, that includes children’s health services, which are often better delivered in community settings with other family support services. I particularly support Amendment 75, which calls for each local authority to provide a family hub. That is central to a national rollout of family hubs. which I would like to see at the very core of a national strategy on child vulnerability.
I start by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, for her support; it is very much appreciated. She has been a doughty warrior accompanying us along this path for many years.
I will speak to my Amendments 64, 66, 68 and 75 and I thank the Minister for the meetings I have had with him and the Bill team to hear his concerns, particularly around being overprescriptive.
Amendment 64 simply replaces “may” with “must” and thereby requires integrated care partnership strategies to lay out how health-related services can be more closely integrated with health and social care. In Committee, I said that “may” made that aspect of integration voluntaristic, and I would be grateful if the Minister could explain why, as I am genuinely mystified, the ICP is at present only invited to do that.
Amendment 66 has been revised after the discussions mentioned earlier. I propose adding new subsection (5A) to Clause 116ZB to specifically invite ICPs to consider how family help services, including those accessed through family hubs, could be more closely integrated with arrangements for the provision of health services and social care services in that area. I avoid using “must” in that case, because it could place an overly prescriptive requirement on ICPs. I also avoid mandating the use of family hubs. They are simply mentioned as an important potential access point.
I recognise and applaud the many ways that the Government have improved the Bill with respect to children’s health. However, I explained in Committee that many children’s health needs are psychosocial: they need practical, not just medical, solutions and addressing them needs a whole-family approach. That is also particularly important when parents experience drug and alcohol problems, which can affect their children almost or as much as the parents themselves.
Early family help commissioned by local authorities therefore needs to be integrated with health as well as many other departments of government. Family hubs are mentioned in my amendment, not prescriptively but as the model that could enable that to happen. In Committee, I described how DWP’s Reducing Parental Conflict programme, DLUHC’s Supporting Families and the MOJ’s private family law pilots all looked to family hubs as an access point for those who need this support. The Bill could and should help to make that model proliferate to benefit families. As it operates according to principles, not an overly prescribed framework, it can be tailored to local need, including by drawing in the bespoke work of the local voluntary and community sector. Historically and currently, health services have had a poor track record in integrating with local government and wider partners. The Children’s Centre movement frequently lamented the lack of engagement with health. The opportunity the Bill provides to avoid that pattern being repeated should not be missed.
My Amendment 66 gives meaning to the phrase “family help” and points towards an amended Schedule 2 to the Children Act 1989 to explain what is meant by “family hubs”. In Committee, I explained that
“services which improve children’s lives through supporting the family unit and strengthening family relationships to enable children to thrive and keep families together”
is the independent care review’s working definition of “family help”. This is not a concept to be set in concrete in the lead reviewer’s final report, but simply one that is qualitatively different from “family support” in local authority usage. The latter leans towards late-stage statutory child protection, which ideally prevents children entering care and is far from the early help so many parents need.
Finally, my Amendment 75 necessarily changes how the Children Act 1989 refers to family help infrastructure to reflect more closely the way it has developed. It has also been adjusted since Committee to avoid mandating local authorities to provide family hubs, which would have significant cost implications, ultimately for the Treasury. As a result of my amendment, new Schedule 2(9) to the Children Act would state:
“Every local authority shall provide such family hubs as they consider appropriate with regard to local needs in relation to children and families within their area.”
“Family hubs” means an access point where children, their parents, relatives and carers can access advice, guidance, counselling or paediatric health services as well as occupational, social, cultural or recreational activities. This removes the anachronistic reference to and description of “family centres”. These were never consistently implemented in the way probably envisaged by the draftsmen of the 1989 Act, although children’s centres did emerge to fulfil many of their purposes in response to research on the importance of children’s early years.
To address the Minister’s concerns that putting family hubs into legislation would introduce unhelpful rigidity and prescription, I end by making an analogy with the Supporting Families programme. This does have a legislative underpinning, but the early troubled families programme from which it evolved provided principles for a tried, tested and consistent way of working, illustrated these with case studies and supported local authorities to develop their own bespoke approaches to that way of working. The DfE is taking a similar non-prescriptive approach in its family hubs framework, which emphasises principles—namely, access, connection and relationships—and avoids determining how local authorities implement these. Just as the Supporting Families programme has developed but is still recognisably the same way of working launched as “troubled families” 10 years ago, I and others anticipate the same continuous improvement trajectory for the family hubs model or way of working.
Family hubs are now official government policy, backed by a £130 million commitment, a major evaluation programme and decades of supportive research. The model is not prescriptive but enabling and supported by many local authorities and those designing health systems. I would be grateful, in conclusion, if the Minister would explain, after these assurances, why this important social infrastructure, the fruit of 30 years of reform, which builds on and extends Labour’s legacy of Sure Start centres, has no place in the Bill.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, on his efforts to keep the issue of prevention and early intervention before us: it is vital. I also thank the Minister for the government amendments and the way he has engaged with us over this issue. I was particularly pleased to hear him use the word “action” at least two or three times in his introduction to the amendments. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and my noble friend Lady Tyler, on all they have done but in particular for pointing out, in their Amendment 59, that there could be a bit of a gap here. We have the CQC, which will inspect individual healthcare settings and, under the Bill, it will also have to see how the new integrated care system is working, but there is no guarantee that it will see it as part of its duty to see how that system is working for children. This is something that the NHS could do through the report called for in Amendment 59.
My Lords, I too thank my noble friend the Minister for Amendments 36 and 157. I shall also speak in support of Amendment 59 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins. Before I do so, I hope your Lordships’ House will allow me to take this opportunity to thank the healthcare professionals at Guy’s and St Thomas’s, who recently looked after me so well following major surgery. Some noble Lords may have noticed my absence. I have had half my leg rebuilt and am now the proud, if involuntary, owner of a Meccano set inserted by my excellent surgeon, Marcus Bankes, and his registrar, Christian Smith. I apologise in advance if any noble Lord seeks to intervene and I dare not sit down to take their intervention as I am not sure I would be able to get back up again.
Although the pain was excruciating and the morphine, which I am weaning myself off, very welcome, it saddens me to say that that pain was compounded by the way in which I received no support from your Lordships’ House. I might as well have been dead. It reminded me that this wonderful institution remains a place whose rules and modus operandi were designed by and for rich, non-disabled men. I will say no more on the matter now, but it is clear to me that this needs to change if we are to become a stronger, more diverse, more representative House. If we do not want to be consigned to the past, we must stop living in the past. The appalling way we treat Members whose disability enforces temporary absence from your Lordships’ House is indefensible and cannot continue.
Returning to the substance of the amendments under discussion, I am hugely grateful that the Government have listened to concerns I raised at Second Reading and others raised, in my absence, in Committee. All credit goes to noble Lords for the strength and the passion with which they did this, and to the Minister for so obviously listening and taking their concerns on board. Taken together, Amendments 36 and 157 should make a real difference to the lives of all babies, children and young people in this country, particularly those with speech, language and communication needs. I should declare at this point my interest as a vice-president of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. I know the Minister and his colleagues across government, not just in the Department of Health and Social Care but also in the Department for Education and the Ministry of Justice, share my ambition and the ambition of other noble Lords in wanting children and young people with communication needs and their families to have the best possible level of support so they can realise their potential.
To help deliver that ambition, I ask my noble friend to reflect on four things. First, I would be so grateful if he would look kindly on Amendment 59, so ably spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins. This would help to close any potential accountability gap and considerably strengthen the provisions of Amendment 36.
Secondly, will the Minister pledge to ensure that all the guidance to the Bill specifically references children’s speech, language and communication needs? The statutory guidance and accountability lead for SEND is a very positive development, but it is not sufficient. The vast majority of children with communication needs do not have an education, health and care plan. This includes children with developmental language disorder—over 7% of all children—those who stammer, and those with speech-sound disorders. The guidance must, therefore, ensure that the needs of those children are supported. A model that the Government have already established for this is the statutory guidance to the Domestic Abuse Act, where speech, language and communication are listed as a specific intersectionality.
Thirdly, will the Minister agree to meet the chief executive of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists to discuss how the guidance on the Bill can best capture those issues? Fourthly, on Amendment 157, can the Minister reassure the House that the report will include commitments to act to improve information-sharing? Finally, may I reiterate my huge thanks to my noble friend the Minister, and say how pleased I am to be able to do so in person, in your Lordships’ House? It is good to be back.
My Lords, I welcome my noble friend back and commend him for his bravery. We came into the House at the same time, and he is a source of constant inspiration to us all; I have endless admiration for him. I apologise to the House for having omitted to declare my interests when I spoke for the first time on Report on Tuesday. I refer to my entry in the register of interests, and in particular to the fact that I work with the board of the Dispensing Doctors’ Association. I am also a patron of the National Association of Child Contact Centres and a co-chair of the All-Party Group on Child Contact Centres and Services.
I again commend my noble friend the Minister for summing up and assessing the mood of the House and tabling the amendments today; I am grateful to him for that. I also support the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and her Amendment 59, which is very appropriate. I hope my noble friend will look favourably on it, and I pay tribute to the work of the noble Baroness. One of her remarks earlier on Report which struck a chord with me was about the shortage of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals, particularly for those in the age group affected by these amendments.
I endorse and support the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Farmer. He refers in particular to the family hubs, and I make a plea to the Minister to recognise, as part of a family hub, a child contact centre. Centres are usually manned by volunteers, and they do fantastic work—not necessarily in keeping families together, because, unfortunately, their role largely comes into play when families have broken, but they play a fantastic role in maintaining contact with the absent parent.
Obviously, in these constrained times, the budgets of all organisations come under increasing scrutiny and pressure, so I urge the Minister to use his good offices to speak to those in the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Education to ensure that the budget for child contact centres will be renewed not only for two years but for three years—the period promised earlier. Those centres do fantastic work, under great constraint, and I am proud to be associated with them. I wanted to use this opportunity to support the amendments and to urge my noble friend the Minister to use his good offices in this regard.
My Lords, I too welcome the government amendments—bur first I wish the noble Lord, Lord Shinkwin, all the best for a speedy recovery from his hospitalisation; I am sure everyone will join me in that. I welcome the government amendments to ensure that the Bill recognises how important sharing information on children’s health and social care across government departments and public authorities is to safeguarding and protecting them and to promoting their welfare. The commitment in Amendment 157 to reporting to Parliament within a year on implementation, and explaining where the use of the consistent identifier for each child would facilitate information-sharing, is a significant step forward, as is the emphasis on overcoming the barriers that stop services being joined up, which have a serious—and, sadly, all too often fatal—impact on keeping children safe and well.
We also support government Amendment 36 to Clause 20, which leads this group, on how ICBs’ joint forward plans will address the needs of children and young people. Amendment 59 tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, complements this in relation to performance assessments, and says how they should address the matter, particularly the duties relating to disabled children and children with special needs. I hope the Government will respond positively to this and will consult widely with stakeholders, after the promise in the Minister’s recent letter of a package of “bespoke” statutory guidance from NHS England explaining how ICPs and ICBs will meet the needs of babies, children, young people and families, and be accountable for integrating services. The Minister’s letter, and his introduction today, provide a number of assurances on important issues, such as having children’s leads on ICB executives. We will see how it all works through in practice in the structures of the new bodies.
As noble Lords have stressed, the whole issue of sharing information across multiagencies will be difficult and challenging. Two of the major barriers for previous efforts were the clash between the value of sharing electronic information and fears about it getting into the wrong hands. That is why we need a clear status picture of where we are starting from, to be able to analyse what needs to be done, how progress can be made, assessed and monitored, and the priority areas for identification of consistent identifiers.
The Minister has promised that the report will cover all safeguarding partners including the NHS, local authorities, education and the police. Will he write to noble Lords on the categories of information currently shared between those bodies, so that we can see where we are starting from?
Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, has again spoken strongly on his amendments about family hubs, which we supported in Committee on the Bill and on other occasions. I look forward to the Minister's updated response. We do, however, always—today is no exception—make the very obvious point that if the Government had not shut down the excellent Sure Start centres up and down the country, many of the provisions that the noble Lord is calling for in support of children, mothers and families would all be in place now.
I thank all noble Lords who have raised important points in this debate; I also thank them for accepting some of the amendments that we have tabled in response to their engagement. That engagement was very constructive, and I hope that as they look to hold the Government to account we will continue to have engagement on these issues.
First, I shall deal with a couple of specific questions. The noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, again asked about the identifier. As I have made clear, the report will include an explanation of the Government’s policy on a consistent identifier for children. It will also include our approach and actions to implement the recommendations in the report.
We all agree that the principle of a consistent identifier is right, but there are complex issues in applying that consistent identifier in safeguarding children. This is why we want to investigate all the issues thoroughly in a report that will be laid before Parliament a year after commencement. There is one issue in which I am personally interested—I am sure noble Lords will remember that I geeked out on this one. I think there are some technical solutions, but I can also see some technical unintended consequences. I myself will look very closely at the report, especially at the technical solutions.
Like other noble Lords, I welcome my noble friend Lord Shinkwin; it is good to see him back. I thank him for engaging with me—almost from his hospital bed, I think, which demonstrates his commitment to these issues. He talked about speech and language therapy, and the Government recognise the importance of communications needs, and the important part that they play in children’s development. We will work with stakeholders on the development of guidance, and ensure that we engage with the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.
I now turn to Amendment 59 brought forward by the noble Baronesses, Lady Hollins and Lady Tyler. The Government and NHS England are committed to ensuring that ICBs specifically consider the needs of babies, children and young people. NHS England performance assessments will look at a number of the ICB duties, including improvement in equality of service and how to reduce health inequalities. These duties apply to the whole population, including babies, children and young people. The Bill also places a duty on NHS England to have regard to any guidance published by the Secretary of State in connection with assessing the performance of ICBs each year. The guidance can include provisions for the assessment particularly to consider children and young people.
The Bill also places a new duty on the Care Quality Commission to review integrated care systems. The Bill proposes that these assessments will review how ICBs, local authorities and providers of health, public health and adult social care services are working together to deliver safe, high-quality integrated care to the public, including children and young people. The amendment addresses ICBs’ duties in relation to safeguarding children, including those with special education needs and disabilities. To ensure appropriate accountability for duties, we have an agreement with NHS England that its statutory duty will provide that the responsibility for those functions should be delegated to an ICB executive lead. NHS England statutory guidance will clarify that the ICB annual report must set out how it has discharged its duties in relation to child safeguarding.
We should also look at issues around the 2021 Alan Wood review. The cross-government Safeguarding Children Reform Implementation Board, which DHSC jointly chairs, reviewed Sir Alan’s recommendations, and Ministers have discussed them with him. Officials continue to work with Sir Alan to embed his findings where appropriate.
I now turn to Amendments 64, 66, 68 and 75 and thank my noble friend Lord Farmer for bringing this important topic before the House and for engaging and pushing us on this issue which is clearly very close to his heart. We agree that ICPs and ICBs should work closely with a range of organisations to consider the whole needs of families. I stress that it is important that there should be a degree of local flexibility, as we discussed earlier. The package of bespoke guidance, which I mentioned previously, will cover services that my noble friend considers part of family help and the role that family hubs can play. We intend to include in statutory integrated care strategy guidance that family hubs, where appropriate, should be considered in the integrated care strategy where there are opportunities to integrate further its arrangements with health and social care services. My noble friend Lord Farmer will be aware that a range of work is ongoing in this area. The independent review of children’s social care is still considering the definition of family help, and it may be further refined as a result of the ongoing consultation. I would gently ask the noble Lords that the Government are given time to consider the review’s findings and recommendations.
My noble friend will also be aware of the upcoming ambitious programme of work with 75 local authorities to develop effective family hub models, but I must gently remind my noble friend and other noble Lords that as a matter of good governance, good law and the proper sequence of events, the Government feel that they must wait for the care review, and our work to develop family hub models at scale, before drawing implications for the statutory framework for either of them. Doing otherwise risks jumping the gun or being premature. While the Government strongly support and champion in principle the move to family hub models, they need to be able to adapt to local needs and circumstances. They also need to operate affordably, making use of a diverse range of local and central funding streams. In both these regards, local democratically elected councils hold the ultimate decision-making power over whether to adopt a family hub model and how it should function. Although I note my noble friend’s welcome efforts to soften its impact, we believe that there is still a risk that Amendment 75 would impose an additional burden on local authorities in their delivery of local services. It is for these reasons that I ask my noble friend and noble Lords not to move their amendments when reached.
Amendment 36 agreed.
Amendments 37 to 54 not moved.
Amendments 55 to 58
55: Clause 20, page 24, leave out lines 39 to 43 and insert “sections 14Z34 to 14Z44 and 14Z47A (general duties of integrated care boards),”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment requires the annual report for an integrated care board to explain, in particular, how it has discharged its duties under sections 14Z34 to 14Z44 and 14Z47A (rather than just some of those sections).
56: Clause 20, page 25, line 2, after “plan),” insert—
“(ba) review the extent to which the board has exercised its functions consistently with NHS England’s views set out in the latest statement published under section 13SA(1) (views about how functions relating to inequalities information should be exercised),”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment requires the annual report for an integrated care board to state how far it has exercised its functions consistently with views expressed by NHS England in the latest statement published under new section 13SA.
57: Clause 20, page 25, line 8, at end insert—
“(3A) An annual report must include—(a) a statement of the amount of expenditure incurred by the integrated care board during the financial year in relation to mental health,(b) a calculation of the proportion of the expenditure incurred by the integrated care board during the financial year that relates to mental health, and(c) an explanation of the statement and calculation.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment requires an integrated care board to include in its annual report information about spending that relates to mental health.
58: Clause 20, page 25, line 25, at end insert—
“(ca) section 14Z40 (duty in respect of research),”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment requires a performance assessment in respect of an integrated care board to include, in particular, an assessment of how well the board has discharged its duty to promote research and the use of evidence obtained from research. Another amendment provides that the duty to promote research etc includes doing so by facilitating research.
Amendments 55 to 58 agreed.
Amendment 59 not moved.
60: Clause 20, page 27, line 43, at end insert—
“(3) This section however does not authorise—(a) the disclosure of patient information, or(b) the disclosure of personal information obtained from a specified authority which is a health or social care body.(4) For the purposes of this section a “health or social care body” means a public body which exercises functions in connection with the provision of health services or of adult social care in England.” Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would prevent ICBs from disclosing patient information or certain personal information.
My Lords, I thank Ministers, officials and other Peers, including my noble friends Lord Clement-Jones and Lady Walmsley, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, for the discussions that we have had since Committee. I am particularly grateful for the letter from the Minister late yesterday and the meeting this morning.
I have laid Amendment 60, and I support Amendment 116, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, which try to protect only the lawful disclosure of personal patient data. For the purposes of the debate on this group, can we accept that this is shorthand for the confidential personal and medical data currently mainly held by GPs and hospital doctors in England? Amendment 60 would provide that protection in legislation and was laid only because we have not yet had a clear response from Ministers on what is permitted and what the existing rules will be relation to ICBs taking over responsibilities from CCGs because ICBs are new bodies. This is in the light of new Section 14Z61. At Second Reading and in Committee, noble Lords expressed concerns that this new section, which outlines ICBs’ permitted disclosures of information, looks very wide ranging and could, for example, enable a police officer, or another person from a public body, to demand the disclosure of a patient’s personal data.
The new section uses the phrase that ICBs can disclose data where
“disclosure is necessary or expedient”
for the person making the request, but nowhere does it explain how the decision is made by the ICB or what the decision-making process is to release the data and, importantly, where the protection of that personal data sits in the hierarchy of the request of necessary and expedient demands. I have asked repeatedly how this process would work, and in responses at the Despatch Box, in meetings and in letters I have not really had a response that has laid out simply and clearly how this process would work. I shall therefore ask the Minister the following questions in an attempt to clarify how a patient’s confidential personal data will be protected and what the process would be for it to be released to a person making a request. What rules and guidance are available for staff, including those in ICBs, to manage a request from a non-NHS person requesting information other than through a court order? How would it be processed and reviewed? ICBs would not normally be the holder of such data, and new Section 14Z61 does not set out the balance between the rights of the patient and those of the requestor who believes they have a necessary or expedient reason for being sent this data.
We wish to be confident that the structures are in place for when shared care records come into force. Let me be clear: from these Benches, we welcome the principle of shared care records, but the processes need to be in place to ensure that personal data is protected when every part of NHS England would have access to that data. I raise this particularly because just this week Health Service Journal stated that the Secretary of State is speeding up the shared care records project to be complete and implemented by December 2023.
Can the Minister therefore commit that the powers in Section 14Z61(1) will be constrained such that for requests of disclosure that come from outside the health and care system, the ICB will only ever disclose the direct care providers the requester could ask instead? Can he confirm that if an ICB is to become data controller for shared care records, he will return to this clause with primary legislation on such implementation?
I am very grateful for the discussion with Ministers and officials and hope that the Minister will be able to provide your Lordships’ House with a response that demonstrates that patient, personal and confidential data remains secure. I look forward to his response, and I beg to move.
My Lords, first, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, on the brevity of her remarks, which is a model for Report stage. I think she put this across very well indeed and I very much support her.
My Amendment 116 relates to the containment in the Health and Social Care Act 2012 of the concept of a safe haven for patient data across health and social care, which is required for national statistics for commissioning, regulatory research purposes and patient care. My Amendment 116 simply seeks to keep those statutory protections in place and ensure that NHS England does not take on this responsibility as a result of the merging of NHS Digital and NHSX within the structure of NHS England, which was a recommendation of the review led by Laura Wade-Gery. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, is going to speak in some detail—but with brevity as well, I hasten to add.
Kingsley Manning, the former distinguished chair of NHS Digital, has spelled out the implications of doing this. He believes the action of NHS England in taking over NHS Digital
“is a significant retrograde step in defending the rights of citizens with respect to the collection and use of their health data.”
In a letter to me, which I received yesterday, the Minister asked me why NHS England would be regarded as less independent, transparent or objective in the exercise of these functions, given its already significant responsibility for some data and the fact that it is a very similar organisation to NHS Digital, as a statutory arm’s-length body. In answer to him, NHS England has many different responsibilities and priorities, so, first, it will clearly not be able to give the same focus to the issue of protecting the safe haven and, secondly, it has many interests which could be deemed to at least be in tension with the concept of the safe haven. That is why I and other noble Lords believe it is important to have the statutory protection already contained in the current legislative arrangements.
I conclude by saying that I am at one with Ministers in wanting to speed up digital transformation in the NHS; after all, we have been dabbling with this over many years. But it has to be done right, and the way to do it right is to be very transparent and rigorous about the protection of patient information.
My Lords, I rise briefly to speak to Amendments 60 and 116, and I congratulate my noble friend Lady Brinton and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, on their persistence in pressing these two items, because they are extremely important. I also thank the Minister for his engagement, both on the Floor of the House and in extensive correspondence. This has been really quite a complicated trail. I feel as though we have been in a maze where we have had to follow a bit of string, finding the way through into data governance in the NHS.
We have had to follow certain key principles, which we all share and which the Minister has expressed, including the protection of privacy, the right of opt-out, the value of health data and, above all, the imperative to retain public trust. Given the importance of the new ICB regime, I very much hope that the Minister will be able to comprehensively answer my noble friend’s questions.
But if we have taken the time to get to this point of really understanding—or beginning to understand—the kind of data governance that the ICBs will be subject to, it raises the question of what future guidance will be in place. I very much hope that the Minister can absolutely give us the assurance that there will be new, clear guidance, along the lines I hope he is going to express in response to my noble friend, as soon as possible, especially given the speeding up of the electronic patient record programme, as my noble friend Lady Brinton said. That is, of course, desirable, but it has to be done in a safe manner.
As regards Amendment 116, the Minister in his letter—which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, addressed in his response—seemed a bit affronted that we should raise the credentials of NHSEI as a holder and protector of NHS data. I would refer to the BMJ letter, which I think came online yesterday, from Kingsley Manning, a former chair of NHS Digital. He really does set it all out. I shall not go into great detail but, for instance, he says that merging NHS Digital with NHSE
“is an important and retrograde step.”
Your Lordships may dispute this, but from where he sat this is important. He said:
“In my experience the general approach of NHS England, including of its clinicians, was that much of the guidance and regulations with respect to the use of patient”
data “was seen as unnecessary”. That is a pretty big statement and a fairly damning verdict from the former chair of NHS Digital. I do not think that the Minister can simply remedy the situation by assurances, so I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and if it is put to a vote, I very much hope that the House will support it.
Finally, whether or not these amendments are pressed, I hope that the Minister will reconsider whether the Goldacre review should be published before the final version of the new NHS data strategy, Data Saves Lives. I welcome the fact that the Goldacre review is going to deal with information governance, but it is important that we should see that before the final version of Data Saves Lives.
My Lords, I rise even more briefly to support Amendment 116. It is worth reminding the Minister and the House that the Government Statistical Service is independent. It was made so by the Blair Government so that Ministers could not withhold, distort or delay the publication of uncomfortable statistics. Rebukes on dodgy statistics secure public reprimands of Ministers and departments.
The logic of this position is that you do not put the collection or publication of health statistics in the hands of an operational arm’s-length body, particularly because there could be a conflict of interest. That point has already been made. These functions should be left in the hands of an independent non-operational body, which is what the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, does. Can the Minister explain why the Government are making this change? My instinct is to be mightily suspicious.
My Lords, I rise to share all the concerns expressed about the open-endedness of what is in the Bill and the concerns about the lack of protection for patient data. Clearly, there has been much debate and discussion, and I think it is right that we hear from the Minister.
My goodness—I thank noble Lords for their brevity. I am afraid that I shall not be as brief as I would want to be. I would like to confine myself to single-word answers, but I do not think that would give the reassurance that noble Lords are looking for.
I begin by thanking all noble Lords who have engaged with me on this, especially the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and the noble Lords, Lord Clement-Jones and Lord Hunt. As they know from our discussions, this issue is very close to my heart and something I feel very strongly about, so I welcome their pressing the Government on this and their continuous engagement—in fact, right up to this morning. I do not think that this is the end of that engagement but I hope to give some reassurances. I completely understand the interest in the integrated care boards’ power to disclose information that is personal data. I hope I will be able to clarify some of the intentions.
New Section 14Z61, inserted by Clause 20, recreates the section that applies to CCGs, which sets out the circumstances in which CCGs are permitted to disclose information obtained in the exercise of their functions. The clause in question already restricts ICBs’ powers to disclose information, by limiting these to the specific circumstances set out in the clause.
In addition, the existing data protection legislation, including UK GDPR, provides several key protections and safeguards for the use of an individual’s data, including strict rules and key data protection principles for the sharing of personal data. Health data is special category data—that is data that requires additional protections due to its sensitivity. For this type of data to be processed lawfully, a further condition must be met as set out in UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act.
In addition, the common law duty of confidentiality applies to the use of confidential patient information. This permits disclosure of such information only where the individual to whom the information relates has consented, where disclosure is of overall benefit to a patient or is in the public interest—for example, disclosure is to protect individuals or society from risks of harm or where there is a statutory basis for disclosing the information or a legal duty, such as a court order, to do so.
Every health and care organisation has a Caldicott Guardian—a senior person responsible for protecting the confidentiality of people’s health and care information and making sure that it is used properly. Caldicott Guardians decide how much information it is appropriate to share—they may decide that even legally permitted information may not be shared—and they advise on disclosures that may be in the public interest. They act in accordance with the eight principles, which are the framework to ensure that people’s confidential information is kept confidential and used appropriately. The UK Caldicott Guardian Council works closely with the independent statutory National Data Guardian, whose role is to advise and challenge the health and care system to help ensure that the public’s confidential information is safeguarded securely and used properly.
Nothing in the clause overrides the range of requirements in law that provide key protections and safeguards for the use of an individual’s personal data. I can also confirm that NHS England’s power to issue guidance for ICBs will apply to their functions relating to data sharing, and that may be a helpful route in making it clear to ICBs what their duties and responsibilities are, in respect of any confidential data they may hold, in a way that illustrates how legislation applies.
The effect of the amendment is to prevent the effective operation of the clause as drafted. This would prevent the ICB from effectively discharging its functions where it may be necessary to disclose personal patient data, including investigating complaints, making safeguarding referrals for patients whose welfare is at risk, complying with court orders and assisting criminal investigations. It would also risk a confusing data-sharing system where different rules apply to different organisations.
On Amendment 116, once again I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, for bringing this issue before this House. Our aim is to put data and analytics at the heart of NHS delivery and remove incoherence in the organisational leadership, for the benefit of patients and their outcomes. It is a solid recommendation for improving how health and social care data is used more effectively, closing that gap between delivery and the use of data to inform and improve services.
I understand that noble Lords fear that the movement of the statutory data functions from one world-class arm’s-length body, NHS Digital, to another, NHS England, which indeed runs the NHS itself, would result in a decline in the exercise of those functions. We feel that this fear is perhaps overexaggerated but I would be very happy to continue discussions on this.
However, that movement would be accompanied by the transfer of several thousand expert staff and all their supporting expertise and technology, along with the existing statutory safeguards, which would be preserved. NHS Digital and NHS England have a history of very close working on data, most recently of course in how the management of data has underpinned efforts to defeat Covid-19, through the protection of shielded patients and the management of data on vaccinations. The Government and Parliament held NHS Digital to account for the delivery of its functions, and they will continue to hold NHS England to account for the delivery of any functions which transfer.
As to the concern about a conflict of interest, the data collections which NHS Digital undertakes are the result of directions from either the Secretary of State or NHS England, and obviously the direction-making power of the former will continue to be relevant should the proposed merger take place. Directions include details of how data must be shared or disseminated. NHS Digital is required to publish details of all such directions and maintain a register of the information it collects. There is also a rigorous process for external data access requests and audits of how data is used.
The intention here is that such safeguards would continue when the functions transfer to NHS England and would make it very difficult for the organisation to suppress or otherwise refuse to make available any data which it is required to collect and disseminate in fulfilment of its statutory role. I hope, perhaps overoptimistically, that I have reassured the noble Lord, Lord Warner—clearly not—in terms of suppressing information.
There is a rigorous process for external data access requests. NHS England’s Transformation Directorate will be assuming responsibility for NHS Digital’s functions, and for accomplishing the alignment of delivery and data proposed in the Wade-Gery review. There will continue to be external, independent scrutiny—for example, by the Information Commissioner and the National Data Guardian—of the use by the NHS, and NHS England in particular, of health and care data.
I hope that I have given noble Lords some reassurance that these important issues have been considered by the department, and that they will feel able not to move their amendments when reached. Of course, given my strong interest in this subject, I am prepared and happy to have further conversations to make sure that we close any remaining gaps and for me push the department and NHS England as appropriate.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate, in particular for their brevity given the long day we have ahead of us. In particular I thank the Minister for his helpful response.
My Amendment 60 is very specific and I asked for a specific response. The Minister has confirmed what I wanted to hear: that health data is special category data, and that it requires additional protections due to its sensitivity, which would be applied by any ICB when it has had that request. The other key phrase that stuck out was that nothing in the clause overrides the range of requirements in law to provide those key protections and safeguards regarding individual personal data. I am therefore satisfied on that basis.
Briefly on Amendment 116, which is much broader in scope and very important for the future of data use with the proposals that are coming down stream, I agree with all the comments that were made by noble Lords. One particular thing that stood out for me was the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, that the publication of the Goldacre review is vital before any final version of Data Saves Lives is made public.
We will not get to a vote on Amendment 116 today. However, could the Minister assist the House and confirm that guidance will be issued, rather than a looser “may be” issued? With that, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 60 withdrawn.
Clause 21: Integrated care partnerships and strategies
61: Clause 21, page 29, line 14, leave out from “committee” to the end of line 20 and insert “(an “integrated care partnership”) for the board’s area.
(2) The integrated care partnership may be designated as the Health and Wellbeing Board where the area of the integrated care board and the responsible local authority are coterminous.(2A) If more than one Health and Wellbeing Board relates to the area of the integrated care board, the integrated care partnership may be designated as the Health and Wellbeing Boards of each responsible local authority acting in combination.(2B) The integrated care partnership must consist of—(a) one or more members appointed by the Health and Wellbeing Board or Boards,(b) members appointed by the integrated care board (equivalent in number to the number appointed by the Health and Wellbeing Board or Boards), and(c) such further members as are appointed by the integrated care partnership.”
My Lords, Amendments 61, 95 and 96, which are all in my name, are to two separate issues. Amendment 61 relates to an issue we debated a number of times in Committee, when, if I may presume, there was a degree of support among noble Lords for the proposition that integrated care partnerships, in so far as they have to produce a strategy for a needs assessment for their area, have a very complementary—indeed, one might say overlapping—responsibility with health and well-being boards established in local authorities.
I will not go into the detail of how this works, and nor do I rest on the construction of Amendment 61. I freely acknowledge that this is a tricky thing to do. There will be circumstances where one ICS, one ICB or one ICP covers a lot of local authorities and others where it covers only one or two. In the latter case, it is pretty straightforward to integrate health and well-being boards and integrated care partnerships. In other cases, the membership and construction may be more complicated.
Essentially, I want to ask my noble friend a very simple question. We hope it may be possible for integrated care partnerships and health and well-being boards to work together. In certain circumstances, it might also be concluded that they should essentially be the same organisation, since they do the same or similar jobs. How does the legislation permit this to happen?
Previously, we said that the link between this and Amendments 95 and 96 was that, for a number of years, the NHS has engaged in activities and has been structured and organised in ways which it says are not supported by legislation. We do not have to debate whether or not this is so. The point is that the structure of this Bill was intended to enable the NHS to have legislation that directly supports the way in which it proposes to work organisationally in future.
Ten days ago, the Government published a further integration White Paper. As noble Lords will recall, among other things it said that there should be a single person accountable for shared outcomes in each place. It said:
“Our focus in this document is at place level.”
It went on:
“Success will depend on making rapid progress towards clarity of governance and clarity of scope in place-based arrangements.”
Amendments 95 and 96 are about where that place structure is. If the Government are looking to create legislation which reflects future ways of working, where is the place board?
Amendments 95 and 96 relate to Clause 62, which is about the process of delegating functions from NHS bodies to other bodies. In future, one of the essential delegations will be from integrated care boards to their place boards. Would it not make sense for Clause 62 to include place boards? Amendment 95 adds them to the list of relevant bodies, and Amendment 96 simply says what a place board is. The description is more or less non-controversial, although I do not rest on its drafting. Logic says that, if the Government are intending that place boards should exercise a significant function which will be delegated to them by local authorities and/or integrated care boards—potentially both—why not put them in the clause which arranges the delegation of functions? Otherwise, in a year or two, we may end up in exactly the position about which the NHS complained in 2016: that, in integrated care systems, something had been created which the legislation did not support. In a way, place boards reflect the structure of clinical commissioning groups, which have been established over a number of years and are now to be abolished. I am very worried that we will again end up in a situation where place boards are important, yet the legislation will not create a structure to allow this to happen.
I hope that my noble friend will be able to offer encouraging words about how this is to be achieved. It needs to be in the legislation to enable future arrangements to be supported. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and declare my interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association.
There has been a whole debate at Second Reading and in Committee about the equality of local government and the NHS in this regard. Importantly, local government focuses on place because it is used to doing so. If, as the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has said, the legislation does not include powers to delegate right down to local government so that it can work with the NHS—which it sees as its key responsibility—then there will be a gap, and this will not be seen as a true partnership. More importantly, the powers that would unleash some of the issues central to the Bill—better integration, reducing health inequalities and improving health outcomes—will not be achieved. There will not be the powers of delegation that will be allowed to place when innovation starts.
That is why the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, are important, particularly Amendment 96, on the roles of the place board. If the Government do not take this forward, it will be a total abdication. Place will be important in unleashing innovation, and the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has rightly pointed out this gap in the legislation.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has made some important and sensible points, and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s reply.
My noble friend Lord Scriven raised the important question of the role of local authorities. I simply want to add that I happen to know that some of the chairs-designate of the ICBs would really like to know the answer to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, early on in his speech. What is the relationship of the health and well-being boards to the ICBs? If those people are confused, it is not surprising that noble Lords are too.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, has once again put his finger on an issue that the Government need to take seriously and which, as the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, said, has run through our debates at Second Reading and in Committee. What is the role of the ICPs’ joint working and what should a place board be doing? As I said during the previous day’s debate on Report, we need also to treat place boards—or any commissioning body—in the same way as we do the ICBs.
The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, is right. If the Government do not address this issue in the next few weeks by putting something in the Bill, we may well find ourselves back here in two or three years’ time, doing exactly what we are doing now.
My Lords, this has been an important discussion about place and joint working, and although the Government are unable to accept my noble friend’s amendments, for reasons I shall touch on, I hope I can reassure him that the questions which he and other noble Lords have raised have been considered in the Bill.
England is so large and diverse that a one-size-fits-all approach will not be right for everyone, and that is why we have been flexible about the requirements for integrated care partnerships and joint working arrangements. We fundamentally believe that, if integration is to work, we must allow local areas to find the right approach for them.
As my noble friend will appreciate, our provisions on integrated care partnerships build upon existing legislation, particularly in the case of health and well-being boards. We know that health and well-being boards have played an incredibly important role in the last decade, and this legislation intends to build on their success. We will be refreshing the guidance for health and well-being boards in the light of the changes that this Bill proposes, in order to help them understand the possibilities of these arrangements and their relationships with ICBs and ICPs, so that they can find the most appropriate model for their area.
Fortunately, this Bill and existing legislation already provide the framework to do what these amendments intend to achieve. Two or more health and well-being boards can already jointly exercise their functions, and where the local authority area and ICB area are the same, there is no reason why the health and well-being board and the ICP cannot have the same membership. The ICP is intended as an equal partnership between the local authorities and the ICB. By restricting the right of the local authority to nominate a member who they see fit and requiring them to do so through a committee with a potentially wide membership, including the ICB, risks undermining that equality. Local authorities may ask their health and well-being board to nominate those members. However, we do not wish to restrict their options and unintentionally prevent better collaboration and integration by adding further requirements to the Bill.
I turn to the joint working arrangements. The Bill also provides for the ability to establish place-based committees of ICBs and to set them out clearly in their constitutions. I assure my noble friend on this point that the legislation allows the flexibility to establish these committees, so we should not find ourselves in the situation that he talks about. ICBs will be able to enter arrangements under new Section 65Z5, which allows an ICB to delegate or exercise its functions jointly with other ICBs, NHS England, NHS trusts, foundation trusts and local authorities, or any other body prescribed by regulations. Under these powers, a committee of an ICB could be created to look at population health improvement at place level and could consider entering an arrangement under Section 65Z5 to work jointly where appropriate.
The membership of that committee can be decided locally by the ICB, and it is entirely open to the ICB to seek views from other organisations as to who best to appoint. I hope that reassures my noble friend that there is already the legal framework for ICBs to look at population health improvement at a place level. We are trying to protect the ability of ICBs to determine the structures that work best for them. To help them to do that, NHS England has the power to issue guidance to ICBs on the discharge of their functions. The flexibility that we have set out in the Bill makes my noble friend’s intentions possible. However, our provisions also give a degree of flexibility, so that areas can take control, innovate, and adopt what works best for them, rather having to meet prescriptive top-down requirements.
It is for these reasons that I hope that my noble friend feels able to withdraw his Amendment 61 and not move his Amendments 95 and 96 when they are reached.
My Lords, I am most grateful to noble Lords for their support, and to my noble friend for responding. I have a couple of important things to say.
First, I was not suggesting these things. I was suggesting that the legislation should reflect what the Government’s intentions are, because the integration White Paper set them out. Secondly, my noble friend said very carefully that the health and well-being boards and integrated care partnerships can have the same membership, but that is not the same as them being the same organisation. I am looking for my noble friend to say, without fear of contradiction, that where they choose locally to do so—and I am perfectly happy for there to be flexibility—local authorities and the ICBs can create an integrated care partnership which serves the functions of the health and well-being boards and the integrated care partnership in one organisation. That is the question.
On Amendments 95 and 96, I take the Minister’s point. I looked at it and thought, yes, there’s no difficulty about the place boards being a committee of the integrated care boards, but the Government in their White Paper said that there should be a single person accountable for shared outcomes in each place. That place board would have functions delegated to it from the integrated care board and local authorities. For that to happen, I cannot understand why it is not necessary for that to be reflected in Clause 62, since the existing legislation makes no reference to place boards. Also, if the person who is accountable is the chief executive of the place board, we must assume that that will not necessarily be the chief executive of the integrated care board, yet as things stand in the legislation, the chief executive of the integrated care board will be the single accountable officer. How is the accountable officer to be the chief executive of the place board?
I raise those questions. I will gladly withdraw my amendment at this stage and not move Amendment 95 and 96 if we reach them today, but I hope that my noble friend and her colleagues will look at this and be certain that they have covered this off before we complete the passage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 61 withdrawn.
Amendments 62 and 63 not moved.
64: Clause 21, page 30, line 1, leave out “may” and insert “must”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment and others to Clause 21 and Schedule 4 in the name of Lord Farmer would require integrated care partnerships to consider how to integrate health-related services into the provision of health and social care services, and specifically family help services, as relationships are recognised by research as a “health asset”. “Family help” is defined in accordance with the Independent Care Review’s starting definition. ‘Family hubs’ are named as key potential sites for delivering integrated paediatric health and family help.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, and other noble Lords, for their support, and I thank the Ministers for helping on the direction of travel for family hubs, and for family hubs being included in statutory guidance for integrated care services and bespoke guidance specifically covering family help. However, we are talking about the bronze medal position. Gold medal is primary legislation, silver is secondary, and statutory guidance is bronze, although at least we are on the podium. As the Minister said, this is ongoing. They are awaiting the review of children’s local care evaluations from 75 local authorities. I will be with them on the journey. That is all that I can say, as it is ongoing.
Amendment 75 still presents a possible risk of imposing an additional burden on local authorities in their delivery of local services. Given that I have mirrored what the Children Act 1989 says regarding now defunct family centres, the Government should really consider amending this themselves if it inappropriately burdens local authorities. In any event, I welcome the Government’s movement. I beg to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 64 withdrawn.
Amendments 65 to 68 not moved.
Clause 26: Care Quality Commission reviews etc of integrated care system
69: Clause 26, page 37, line 24, leave out “objectives and”
My Lords, this group of amendments in my name relates to Clause 26. Noble Lords will recall that we had a rather helpful debate about this in Committee. The point is that the Care Quality Commission is an independent organisation. We want to respect that and see that carried through into its new responsibility of reviewing and inspecting the integrated care systems.
The Bill asks for “objectives and priorities” to be set by the Secretary of State. In another place, Members of the Commons inserted the idea that these priorities must include—as seen in proposed new Section 46B(3)—
“leadership, the integration of services and the quality and safety of service”.
That is fine; if they want that, let us leave it in, but I have no idea what “objectives” are in this context. Although I do not want to go down the path of semantics, for the Secretary of State to say what his or her priorities are is entirely reasonable and should be reflected in the indicators used by the CQC, but I am not sure that I know what “objectives” are in this context. Either my noble friend will explain to me what the objectives are, in which case the question of why they are not clarified further in the Bill arises, or let us leave them out—which is what most of these amendments do.
Regarding two of these amendments, it seems particularly undesirable for the Secretary of State—as in proposed new Section 46B(5) and (10)—to
“direct the Commission to revise the indicators”.
The indicators that the Care Quality Commission devises require the approval of the Secretary of State, so I am not sure why we should so trammel the independence of the CQC by enabling the Secretary of State to “direct” it to revise its indicators as opposed to denying approval, so I would rather that were not there.
Our noble friends on the Front Bench have been very accommodating; a spirit of compromise and understanding seems to have imbued the Front Bench splendidly so far. If the Minister is not minded to accept my amendments, I hope that she can at least give me some reassurance about the manner in which the Secretary of State’s powers are to be used or—in my view, this would be better—not used or extremely rarely used. I beg to move Amendment 69.
My Lords, the CQC is a competent and independent organisation. Long may that continue, and any attempt to trammel it is unwelcome. We have here a 265-page Bill. If the CQC cannot get from the Bill the intentions of the Government and carry them out carefully in doing its job inspecting and reporting on how the integrated care systems are working, I do not think it needs any further direction from the Secretary of State.
I agree with that and with the noble Lord, Lord Lansley. We will be coming to other issues about the Secretary of State’s powers later on Report, but the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has put her finger on it. I think I was there at the CQC’s inception because I was a Minister at the time, or certainly soon after. It has discharged its duties extremely well. The Minister needs to explain why the Government feel it necessary to put these powers into the Bill.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for raising this issue. I hope in the spirit of collaboration and compromise I am able to provide him with some further clarity and reassurance, even if I am not able to support his amendments.
Flourishing systems are critical to the success of integration and many of the proposals in the Bill. In that context it is right that the Secretary of State, who is accountable to Parliament, can set the overall strategic direction of reviews of integrated care systems through setting objectives and priorities for the CQC in relation to those assessments. However, it will be the CQC as the independent regulator and expert which will develop and carry out those reviews.
In Committee, noble Lords across this House raised several matters that these reviews should or could look at—from children to rare conditions—and it is right that the Secretary of State should be able to set objectives to explain the intent that lies behind high-level priorities such as leadership, integration quality and safety. These objectives will aid the CQC in its development of the review methodology and quality indicators and lay out where specific focuses should be given. The current clause allows the Secretary of State to make these distinctions and be more nuanced, just as is permitted for CQC reviews of local authority functions relating to adult social care set out in Clause 152. To remove the Secretary of State’s ability to set objectives is to remove nuance, which in turn could dilute the focus of these reviews on particular patient pathways or integration arrangements.
Furthermore, the Secretary of State must be able to ensure that the CQC’s role is complementary to other assessments, such as NHS England’s oversight of ICBs. This is achieved in part through the Secretary of State’s role in approving and directing to revise the indicators of quality, methods and approach. Removing the Secretary of State’s ability to direct the CQC to revise indicators risks the Secretary of State being locked in after approving the methodology. This could prevent the Government being able to respond to shifting developments in health and care, thus undermining the review’s relevance as time progresses.
I further reassure my noble friend and other noble Lords that we expect the power to direct to revise to be used infrequently, so as not to disrupt CQC reviews. The Government fully respect the independence of the CQC, and these powers are designed to ensure that its reviews of the integrated care systems are effective without undermining that independence.
It is for these reasons that I hope my noble friend feels able to withdraw his amendment and not move his further amendments when they are reached.
I am most grateful to my noble friend and for the support of noble Lords for the concept. I hope the CQC will find that this assists it in ensuring that it remains independent in how it goes about its job, and, indeed, how it derives indicators of quality and fitness for purpose. I take my noble friend’s point about what objectives might be. They might be, for example, objectives of the nature of the service that the review should cover so the Government might have some national priorities. I think the word “priorities” would have been sufficient.
I confess to my noble friend that I did not understand why the Secretary of State might come in and direct the CQC to change its indicators. It would have been perfectly reasonable for the Secretary of State to have waited and seen what the CQC said. The CQC will clearly change its indicators from time to time as technologies and services adapt, and it could have been trusted to do it. I will not press the point and I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 69.
Amendment 69 withdrawn.
Amendments 70 to 74 not moved.
Schedule 4: Integrated care system: minor and consequential amendments.
Amendment 75 not moved.
Amendments 76 and 77
76: Schedule 4, page 173, line 29, at end insert—
“Armed Forces Act 2006
82A_(1) Section 343AA of the Armed Forces Act 2006 (due regard to principles: England)(as inserted by section 8(3) of the Armed Forces Act 2021) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (3), for paragraph (h) substitute—“(h) an integrated care board;”.(3) In subsection (8)—(a) omit the definition of “clinical commissioning group”;(b) at the appropriate place insert—““integrated care board” means a body established under section 14Z25 of the National Health Service Act 2006;”.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on Clause 14 of the Bill, which establishes integrated care boards.
77: Schedule 4, page 193, line 14, at end insert—
“Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022
239_ The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 is amended as follows.240_(1) Section 25 (relevant review partners) is amended as follows.(2) In subsection (2)(c) for “a clinical commissioning group” substitute “an integrated care board”.(3) In subsection (3)(c) for “clinical commissioning group” substitute “integrated care board”.241_ In section 36 (interpretation), in subsection (1)—(a) omit the definition of “clinical commissioning group”;(b) at the appropriate place insert—““integrated care board” means a body established under section 14Z25 of the National Health Service Act 2006;”;(c) in the definition of “review partner”, for paragraph (c) substitute—“(c) an integrated care board, or”.242_ In Schedule 1 (specified authorities and local government areas), in the table headed “Health and social care”—(a) for “A clinical commissioning group established under section 14D” substitute “An integrated care board established under section 14Z25”; (b) for “the group’s” substitute “the board’s”.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on Clause 14 of the Bill, which establishes integrated care boards.
Amendments 76 and 77 agreed.
Clause 29: Exercise by NHS England of new regulatory functions
Amendments 78 and 79
78: Clause 29, page 39, line 34, leave out “also”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the insertion into section 13U of the NHS Act 2006, by another amendment, of a duty for NHS England to include additional matters in its annual report.
79: Before Clause 35, insert the following new Clause—
“Duties in respect of research
In section 1E of the National Health Service Act 2006 (duty as to research), after “must” insert “facilitate or otherwise”.”Member’s explanatory statement
This Clause provides that the Secretary of State’s duty to promote research etc includes doing so by facilitating research.
Amendments 78 and 79 agreed.
Clause 35: Report on assessing and meeting workforce needs.
80: Clause 35, page 42, leave out lines 14 to 19 and insert—
“(1) The Secretary of State must, at least once every two years, lay a report before Parliament describing the system in place for assessing and meeting the workforce needs of the health, social care and public health services in England.(2) This report must include—(a) an independently verified assessment of health, social care and public health workforce numbers, current at the time of publication, and the projected workforce supply for the following five, ten and 20 years; and(b) an independently verified assessment of future health, social care and public health workforce numbers based on the projected health and care needs of the population for the following five, ten and 20 years, taking account of the Office for Budget Responsibility long-term fiscal projections.(3) NHS England and Health Education England must assist in the preparation of a report under this section.(4) The organisations listed in subsection (3) must consult health and care employers, providers, trade unions, Royal Colleges, universities and any other persons deemed necessary for the preparation of this report, taking full account of workforce intelligence, evidence and plans provided by local organisations and partners of integrated care boards.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require the Government to publish independently verified assessments every two years of current and future workforce numbers required to deliver care to the population in England, taking account of the economic projections made by the Office for Budget Responsibility, projected demographic changes, the prevalence of different health conditions and the likely impact of technology.
I shall speak to Amendment 80. I want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Birmingham, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Merron. I am really grateful for their cross-party support.
I have had a lot of support for the amendment not only from the whole House, which is very welcome, but from 100 organisations including 16 royal colleges and many important charities. I shall mention just two charities out of the large number from which I have received support: National Voices, which speaks for patients, and YoungMinds—because it is their future that we are talking about. A huge number of patient groups, think tanks and professional bodies have also supported this amendment.
We spoke in Committee about workforce planning. I say to my noble friend the Minister that the strength of feeling on this matter has been great. I make no apology for bringing back this amendment today. Workforce is the single greatest problem facing the NHS. Without improved planning, we will fail to tackle the growing backlog not only in procedures but in appointments within the NHS. We will not know whether we have the right people in the right place at the right time. We will not provide a sustainable work environment for the dedicated staff currently working so hard within our services. We will not meet the public’s expectations when they turn to the NHS for care and support.
In Committee, my noble friend the Minister said that we had a record number of people working in the health service. I do not doubt him for a moment, but it begs the question of whether we have enough to meet demand. Staff numbers may be rising, but so is the backlog. The current NHS waiting list stands at 6.1 million and is rising. We need workforce capacity that can meet not only today’s demand but that of the future. As we all know and have discussed in this Chamber, it take many years to train nurses, doctors and health professionals. We need a long-term view. Without that, we are flying blind.
The NHS is relying more and more on bank and agency staff. Not only is that expensive but it is a sticking-plaster solution. We need a workforce strategy. The Secretary of State told the Health and Social Care Select Committee recently that he had commissioned NHS England to undertake a long-term workforce strategy but, again, that begs questions. We do not know whether the strategy will cover both healthcare and social care. That is essential if we want to improve integration within those services, which, after all, is the very purpose of the Bill—it is not called the Health and Care Bill for nothing.
We do not know what period the strategy will cover, or whether it will be regularly refreshed. We do not know whether it will include numbers of staff needed based on population demand. A workforce plan without numbers simply does not add up. We need clear, verifiable, objective data and analysis to underpin such a strategy, and to enable us to check at regular intervals whether that strategy is working.
When I spoke in Committee, I fear that I may have bombarded your Lordships with numbers—for unified staff vacancies, unfilled staff vacancies, retirement projections and so on. I used all those numbers to illustrate the workforce challenges faced by the health and care system, but I am sure that your Lordships will be grateful that I shall not repeat those today. I want just to say that the numbers are as telling now as they were in Committee; they are not getting better. They underline the need for a long-term plan, backed up by the data and analysis that Amendment 80 would bring. The longer we wait, the worse the situation becomes.
I have mentioned reliance on bank and agency staff. I need to say a very few words about that, because my sense is that behind the Government’s hesitation about this amendment is a concern about the cost complications that it could trigger. Training more healthcare staff will of course cost more money, but not training more staff costs money too. The mismatch between staffing levels and patient demand is leading to significant locum spend to plug the gaps. In 2019-20, £6.2 billion was spent on agency and bank staff in hospitals in England. The latest figures up to September 2021 show that agency and bank spending has increased still further. Projections show that it is expected to go on increasing next year and the year after. That spend can be reduced if we have a proper long-term workforce plan, which must be underpinned and verified by the provisions set out in Amendment 80.
Let us have the numbers that enable the health and care system to plan properly for the long term. Let us in turn have numbers of staff that we need, carrying out the roles that we need, in the locations where they are needed. Let us reduce the excessive reliance on expensive temporary cover and, in turn, let us generate cost savings that can be ploughed back into high-quality care. Rarely has the phrase “strength in numbers” been more apt.
In moving Amendment 80, I look forward to the debate in your Lordships’ House and to my noble friend the Minister’s reply. I hope he will recognise the strength of feeling in the House and in this country as a whole. If the amendment is not acceptable, I am afraid that I will be forced to test the opinion of the House. I beg to move.
My Lords, I shall speak shortly to Amendment 168, but want briefly to refer to Amendment 80, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, and so eloquently introduced by her, and supported across the House. Workforce planning is critical. Frankly, it is surprising that Ministers resisted amendments in Committee which called for formal long-term workforce planning for the NHS, social care and public health to be embedded in legislation.
The noble Baroness said that that current arrangements can be a bit like sticking plasters, and she is right, but it is not just about the use of bank and agency staff but about planning healthcare professional education. We all know how long it takes to train a doctor, but most of the other professionals also cannot just be turned on and off at election time. There have been too many times when this Government have said at elections that they would suddenly magic thousands of extra doctors and nurses. We need to build timescales into that workforce planning. The noble Baroness also talked about population demand, but I want to make another point: this is not just about population numbers; it is also about demographics. We will need more GPs and hospital professionals managing our rapidly ageing population. If we do not encourage people to go into those specialisms, we will not be able to look after our population in 10, 15 or 20 years’ time.
I also agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, that if government resistance is because of the funding implications with delivering such a plan, that is very short sighted. Not planning will be even more catastrophic. Amendment 80 is more modest in nature but is a critical minimum to achieve a commitment to plan effectively for the NHS, social care and public health.
I turn now to Amendment 168. Given that there are a number of speakers on this important group, I will be very brief here too. The amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, echoes the one he laid in Committee, and I am pleased to have signed both. We heard in Committee about this frustrating loophole that meant that it was not possible for certain members of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine to be added to the list of colleges which could be involved in the appointment of NHS consultants. This is now slowing down the appointment of NHS consultants. I am very pleased to support the amendment and hope the Minister will be able to give good news to the House on this amendment too.
My Lords, I speak to Amendments 80 and 168. Amendment 80 is very important and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, for being so persistent. Throughout the country there is a workforce shortage in hospitals, the community and social care. At Second Reading, the noble Baroness, Lady Harding, warned that:
“Unless expressly required to do so, government will not be honest about the mismatch between the supply and demand of healthcare workers.”—[Official Report, 7/12/21; col. 1814.]
This amendment would give an independently verified assessment of the workforce numbers to meet the growing needs of the population.
Patients who have serious, rare and specialised conditions such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, spinal injuries and all sorts of conditions need expert, specialised staff and equipment so they get the treatment they need. Otherwise, their conditions can deteriorate and result in added costs to the NHS and the taxpayer. Delayed treatment also means unnecessary pain and suffering for the patients. I hope the Government realise the need for Amendment 80.
I was surprised when I received a letter from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh telling me that, along with the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, it was excluded by omission from participating in the process of helping trusts in England recruit much-needed consultants. I wonder what the reason for this extraordinary discrimination is. Does England think it is superior? These royal colleges have been contacted by multiple trusts in England seeking help to recruit the necessary surgeons but, unless this regulation is corrected, they cannot help in this process. This sharing of important selection is more important than ever at this difficult time.
The royal colleges of medicine in Scotland have a good reputation worldwide. I have a personal interest in this amendment, as one of my grandfathers trained as a doctor in Glasgow and one of my cousins trained in Edinburgh and is now a professor of microbiology. I hope the Government can rectify this lacuna in the regulations by accepting this amendment.
My Lords, I am an honorary fellow of the two Edinburgh colleges and I strongly support this. It seems extraordinary that these very distinguished colleges which, as has been said, have an excellent record over many years in teaching people not only in this country but in many other countries should be excluded from playing a part in these appointments.
I also support Amendment 80 but would like to elaborate on it a little. I think Health Education England was set up, by the Act that we had before, with some degree of contention. It is a system that is supposed to help determine the future for the health service, with fairly elaborate provisions to that effect, as I remember from that Bill.
It is not at all clear to me how this assessment is going to be done. I see it has to be verified independently, in other words somebody independent of the whole system has to assess it for its accuracy. However, if you need Health Education England to do this for the medical professions particularly, why do you not need something similar to deal with the very complicated system of social care? Therefore, I think the whole system requires to be extended to cover something like Health Education England in relation to the whole area that this amendment covers. The Secretary of State sets up some kind of mechanism for report; it has to be a pretty elaborate mechanism if it is going to work. Therefore, I humbly suggest that something like Health Education England is needed to be the basis on which this assessment arises. Then, of course, you have to provide for the independent assessment of whether it was a good assessment originally. I support this amendment, but I think something more elaborate is ultimately required.
My Lords, I will just speak to my Amendments 111 and 168. On Amendment 111, when the noble Baronesses, Lady Brinton and Lady Masham, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, have already put forward the arguments, there is very little for me to say, but the exclusion of the Scottish colleges from the appointment process needs to be rectified. It is an irritant, a hold-up.
In Committee, the noble Lord said that we needed to go through consultation. That was a dreary and negative response. The Scottish colleges have done that. They have consulted and got the support of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, NHS Employers and the NHS Confederation. Surely the Minister can just accept this amendment. To simply say that there is no need for it and lots of consultation has to take place is just a ludicrous waste of time and money. This is the time to do it. He should bring an amendment back on Third Reading and be done with it. The noble Lord says that he wants to improve efficiency in the health service. I am afraid I take that with a pinch of salt, because he is just letting officials run riot around him in relation to petty, bureaucratic objections to this change.
Obviously, my other amendment is not major compared to Amendment 80, which is substantial and very important. The noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, has really put it forward with great force. Again, I think the noble Lord needs to take a more vigorous approach with the Treasury, because clearly that is where the objection to this is coming from.
My other amendment is about the terrible problem of GP distribution, or the wide variations. I am not going to tempt the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, to come in on the GP issue—but the latest figures, for 31 December 2021, show, for primary care networks in England, the huge variation in the number of GPs. In 24 of the networks, the average list of registered patients for fully qualified full-time equivalent GPs is more than twice the national average. There are five primary care networks where the average is more than three times the national average; these are often in the most deprived areas. No wonder there is an issue of burnout, early retirements and a move to part-time working.
The Government’s response so far is the targeted enhanced recruitment scheme—an incentive for GPs to go into these areas. It is not enough; a much more substantive piece of work is required, and I hope again that the Minister will come forward with a positive response.
I shall speak to Amendment 82 in the name of my noble friend Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. I attended Second Reading and made my views felt then, but I have not been able to join the deliberations on the Bill since then because of the pressure of other Bills in your Lordships’ House.
Even I, as someone who does not know very much about medicine, know that the most urgent challenge currently facing our health service is a shortage of nurses. I have been lobbied very heavily by the Royal College of Nursing, because Amendment 82 is its number one priority. It feels that, without a co-ordinated work plan, a coherent forward view and knowledge of exactly how the situation is at the moment, it cannot possibly achieve the sorts of numbers that are needed. There were almost 50,000 vacancies before Covid, and you can imagine the pressure that Covid has put on to the NHS—extreme pressure at completely unsustainable levels, and with staff numbers that are actually unsafe. We all know this, yet Boris Johnson and the Conservatives made big promises at the last election—their manifesto made a promise of 50,000 more nurses—and instantly that number began to unravel, as it included existing nurses who do not quit. That is unclever and unsophisticated number crunching.
I do not understand why this Government will not live up to their manifesto commitments. One reason why I have not been able to speak on this Bill since Second Reading is because of all the other Bills coming through, on which the Conservatives have said that they are aiming to achieve their manifesto commitments. They are actually going rather beyond their manifesto commitments in lots of areas—but the fact is that they are picking and choosing as if from a box of sweets the ones that they prefer.
The Royal College of Nursing represents over 480,000 nurses in health and social care. These are people whose pay requests are constantly ignored—and who constantly have their pay cut; in real terms, it has reduced. Just at the point when MPs are getting very welcome extra pay, nurses hang on by their fingertips. We know that vacancies are also a huge problem, with retirement age approaching for a lot of nurses. Nurses need the certainty of planning, and I do not hear those plans coming from the Government, although this is really their job—to manage the economy and manage society in a way that benefits everybody. Clearly, if the NHS fails in any area, that does not benefit anybody at all.
I argue very strongly for Amendment 82, and I just hope that the Government wake up in time to see how necessary it is.
My Lords, I am very pleased to co-sponsor the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, Amendment 80, and to speak in support of a number of the other amendments in this group. I declare my honorary fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of GPs, and thank them and the 100 other organisations across the health and social care sector that have joined in the cross-party support that this amendment is likely to generate.
In considering how to vote on this amendment, I think it really boils down to two very straightforward questions. First, do we need regular, rigorous and independent workforce planning for health, social care and public health? The social care point, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, has just reminded us, is so crucial here. The second question is: if so, will we get it, with appropriate rigour and independence, without this amendment? I suggest that the answer to that question is, unfortunately, no.
The first question is self-evident to most people. We discussed it throughout Committee: workforce pressures mean that it is obvious that we need regular workforce planning. The very long lead times make it critical. Earlier this week, your Lordships were debating pressures in young people’s mental health services and eating disorder services. It is worth reminding ourselves that a new consultant psychiatrist specialising in eating disorders, starting work in NHS mental health services this morning, will have entered medical school 15 years ago. It is worth reminding ourselves, too, at a time when the NHS is confronting long waits for routine operations and needs to deal with a backlog of care, that the new medical student starting undergraduate medicine in September will report for duty as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon in 2037.
So the lead times are clear, yet we have a paradox: more young people and, indeed, mid-career people, would like to join this great campaign, this social movement—the health service, social care and public health—but we are turning them away. In 1945, Nye Bevan said:
“This island is made mainly of coal and surrounded by fish. Only an organising genius could produce a shortage of coal and fish at the same time.”
I suggest that, if Bevan were recasting his aphorism for today, he would say that, at a time when the NHS and social care have such a clear need for more staff, only a workforce planning system of organisational genius could turn away bright and committed young people from undergraduate medicine and other oversubscribed university places for health and other professions.
We have to accept that there will be extra costs from getting this right. The noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, was quite right to draw attention to the fact that there will be savings, including from the £6.2 billion spent in 2019-20 on agency and bank staffing across the health service. But there will be extra costs: the Royal College of Physicians has estimated that doubling undergraduate medicine places would cost perhaps £1.85 billion, which is about one-seventh of the amount that the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee identified last week as being likely to be lost from fraud and waste through the various furlough and other schemes introduced during Covid. So I think we need to put these costs in perspective.
The fact that there will be those costs gives us the answer to our second question. Of course, we need workforce planning, but are we going to get it without this amendment? I am afraid that I do not think we are. In Committee—although I shall not rehearse it—using publicly available materials, I set out the sorry history of what I described as the “wilful blindness” that has been inflicted on the health and social care sector and, indeed, on health Ministers and the Department of Health and Social Care itself, as they have sought to go about this task down the years.
The question before your Lordships is: has the leopard changed its spots? I suspect—and I genuinely sympathise with the Minister’s predicament—that he will tell us that the baton has now been passed from the Department of Health and Social Care to NHS England, so that for the first time it has the responsibility for undertaking this task, and we should be reassured by that fact. In that case, I ask him to give clear guarantees at the Dispatch Box that the proposed new powers of direction for the Secretary of State will never be used to veto or censor any independent estimates that NHS England itself puts forward, including those with a financial consequence. Indeed, I ask that he goes further than that and gives us a Dispatch Box guarantee that NHS England will be entirely free to publish, every two years, without approval, veto or censorship from either the Department of Health or the Treasury, the workforce need, demand and supply models implied in Amendment 80. If those guarantees are not forthcoming from the Dispatch Box, I think your Lordships will be entitled to draw your own conclusions.
We await insight from the Minister himself on that point; it is indeed, of course, what the chairman of the cross-party Health and Social Care Committee, Jeremy Hunt, suggested in the House of Commons. We have an immediate litmus test before us, which should help us answer the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. As your Lordships will remember, we noted in Committee the fact that, just 10 weeks before the start of the financial year, when it should have been planning 10 years out, Health Education England still did not have its operating budget for the year ahead. My understanding—I hope to be corrected by the Minister—is that, certainly, as of 10 am, Health Education England still does not have its workforce operating budget for just 29 days’ time. That is precisely because of a set of behind-the-scenes discussions—no doubt courteous, but nevertheless fervent—between the Department of Health and Social Care on the one hand and the Treasury on the other.
Health Ministers are more sinned against than sinning on this, frankly, and in that sense this amendment will strengthen their hand. I suspect that, privately, they will welcome the mobilisation of your Lordships to support their negotiating case. The very fact that Her Majesty’s Government oppose this amendment is proof positive that it is needed. We need it because we need to look beyond the end of our noses. To vote against this amendment would be to cut off our noses to spite our faces.
My Lords, this whole group is worthy of government action, and I support Amendments 80 and 81 in respect of speech and language therapists. The NHS Long Term Plan itself states that speech and language therapists are a profession in short supply. The Department of Health and Social Care, in its submission to the Migration Advisory Committee’s review of the shortage occupation lists, argues that speech and language therapists should be added to them because of the pressures facing these professions, particularly in relation to mental health.
The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, for whose advice I am grateful, suggests that a minimum increase in the skilled workforce is required in the region of 15%. In recent years, the profession has grown by 1.7% in a year. The Government themselves recognise that they are clearly not delivering the speech and language therapy workforce that we need. No national assessment has been undertaken of the demand and the unmet need for speech and language therapy, which, I remind noble Lords, is essential for people to be able to communicate. Will the Government accept Amendments 80 and 81 or explain otherwise how they plan to improve workforce planning so that speech and language therapy is no longer a profession in too short supply?
My Lords, I will be exceptionally brief and make two very quick points, but first I need to apologise for, when I spoke earlier, omitting to mention my registered interest as a non-executive director of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.
I very strongly support Amendment 80, moved so ably by the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, and pressed so very cogently by the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, and others. It is absolutely fundamental to everything that the Bill is designed to achieve, and we will not achieve those things unless the workforce is addressed.
In relation to Amendment 111 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, I say that it is so important that we have a review into the distribution of GPs in England. I was very concerned when we debated in Committee the huge variation in list numbers in different parts of the country. The biggest lists were in the most deprived areas. If you track that back to the debate we were having on health inequalities, where there was a huge consensus across the House, it is clear that we are never going to fundamentally tackle health inequalities unless we have far greater equality in things like the size of GPs’ lists.
My Lords, I also support my noble friend Lady Cumberlege and Amendment 80. The noble Lord, Lord Stevens, made two points: I would just like to add a third to his argument. He argued that workforce planning needs to happen. There is no large employer of people that does not plan its workforce other than the NHS. We need to do it, and I do not think anyone in this Chamber is going to disagree. He also said that this would not happen without legislation. I will not repeat the points I made at Second Reading or in Committee, or those that he just made so eloquently.
My third point, which I would like to add, is very much addressed to my noble friend the Minister. It is that this amendment will not bring the downsize that the Treasury truly fears. This is actually an amendment of sound management that enables the NHS to manage finances and people better. While there will be more money spent on training, this is actually the way to control the costs of the ever-growing demand for health and social care. If you do not plan, you cannot control the costs. This is actually the way to do the very thing that the Treasury is most concerned about.
Far from locking in old, established ways of working, this is also the way to drive transformation because, unless we are honest about the ever-growing demand for clinicians of every profession, we will not face the fact that we will need to change the way those clinicians work together as medicine and science evolve and all of us age. This is a way to deliver the very thing that the Treasury most wants: control of the finances and transformation of our healthcare services.
With that, I add one final point, and I hope noble Lords will forgive me for repeating what I said in Committee. There is another reason why we need to do this now. Our NHS people are exhausted, and they have lost hope that we understand what it is really like on the ground for them. By passing this amendment, we will give them hope; we will show them that, collectively and cross-party, we really understand that it is they who make our wonderful, precious health and care system work, and we are committed to helping them going forward.
My Lords, I must declare my interests: I am a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, which is affected by Amendment 168. I am an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, president of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and an observer on the Medical Schools Council. All those organisations have a vested interest in this amendment.
Very simply, this amendment just makes sense for the future. Without it, the cost of healthcare to the nation will rack up and never come under control. The talk about people working in the NHS is a fallacy. What matters is whole-time equivalents and the competencies of those people with whole-time equivalents. While it is absolutely right to say that it might take 15 years for somebody to come through training as a specialist, what is not understood is that, as soon as people qualify, having left their undergraduate training, they are then on the job. They are learning on the job, working incredibly hard and contributing, but they do not have the competencies developed. That is what takes a long time. The modern techniques that get things done much more quickly and that deal with more patients—laparoscopic surgery having been an example—are highly skilled, but highly efficient.
We have a shortage of 1,400 anaesthetists. Without anaesthetists, you cannot have good maternity services, you cannot operate and you cannot have good emergency services. They are absolutely essential to the whole running of secondary care. Then, of course, in primary care, we have the gaps as well, so the specialist training is really important.
As well as that, this cannot be handed over to algorithms on a computer and left to IT, because of the need for personal interaction between the clinician and the patient and their family. I do not believe that this will be replaced by AI. However, many jobs performed currently will be taken over by AI, freeing up clinicians to become even more specialist competent.
Building on the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Harding, I remind the House that poor care overall is more expensive than good care in the long term. It is a very short-term view to think that you can provide poor care; in the long term, you really do stack up debt. Stopping workforce planning will not avoid costs at all; all it will do is move the costs from one year further into the future and create bigger problems. Although I hesitate to say it, I think it will also fuel the whole litigation culture.
Amendment 80 is absolutely essential. If it is accepted by the Government, or passed by this House, then Amendments 81 and 82 would fit very neatly into the criteria against which such reports are to be written on the workforce. I remind noble Lords who might be unaware of this that the royal colleges already collect workforce data. Verification of data collected from integrated care boards and areas will not be difficult, because you will simply see how the figures match up. The figures will be reported centrally, and planning can take place. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is so straightforward; I cannot see why we want to rack up costs further by not putting it through. Vacant posts cost money, they do not save money. By putting that through, we will have more efficient appointment procedures. This is an historical anomaly which could be corrected easily.
Relying on bank staff is really dangerous. Mistakes happen much more often when staff come in who do not know the place, the team or who to call. You would never field a sports team consisting of a bunch of people brought together to play at a high level who had never played before. Yet, what we are doing in our NHS is bringing in bank staff who often do not know the hospital or the team. They do not know the strengths of the other people in the team, so they do not know to whom they can delegate. I hope that the House will approve Amendment 80 if the Government are too short-sighted to just accept it.
My Lords, I rise briefly to support very strongly Amendments 80, 81 and others in the group. They have already been explained eloquently, so I will not repeat those arguments. I declare my interest as an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. We have already heard about their importance, as a profession, as part of the wider allied health professionals. It is always worth remembering that allied health professionals make up a third of the total workforce.
Responding to workforce planning in Committee, the Minister stated that he shares the view of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay—from whom we have just heard—on the importance of
“integrated workforce planning across NHS and non-NHS employers … and that work is under way on it.”—[Official Report, 24/01/22; col. 102.]
Unfortunately, at that time the Minister did not set out what that work was. The response did not really give a great deal of hope regarding the long-term failings in workforce planning for allied health professionals in general and speech and language therapists in particular. We need to ensure that this is addressed. As we have heard, these amendments properly address the issue.
I draw particular attention to subsection (4) of Amendment 80, which clearly states that royal colleges must be consulted in drawing up the report which will be laid before Parliament on
“meeting the workforce needs of the health, social care and public health services in England.”
By that consultation, we should ensure that allied health professionals, and particularly speech and language therapists, are included. These professionals sometimes work directly in the NHS. Often, however, they work in other health settings and can be employed in those settings by the NHS. They might also work in settings such as education, the criminal justice system and other parts of the social care system, or in independent practice. They should all form part of the consultation to ensure that the plans which come forward on workforce planning are comprehensive in their nature and coverage. Therefore, these amendments are crucial to achieving this objective. I am sure that the Minister will want to give us that same assurance when he responds.
My Lords, I rise briefly to support this group of amendments and to declare my interest as a fellow of the Royal College of Nursing. It is absolutely clear to me that, without the right staff in the right place, you cannot give the right care. This is the situation we are in at the moment, and we must get it right for the future. We are on an improvement trajectory, and there is an increase in the number of nurses employed in the NHS. However, this is not universal across all areas of the NHS, particularly in learning disability and mental health.
If we could get the Government to support Amendment 80, we could resolve the issue through guidance. On Amendment 81, I also speak for my noble friend Lord Patel, who unfortunately cannot be here today and who believes that an elegant solution as described by my noble friend Baroness Finlay, in terms of guidance subsuming Amendment 82 in particular, would enable directors of nursing, medicine and care to be responsible for ensuring that they have a safe staffing structure in the areas for which they commission care. That would be reported up every two years through the Secretary of State, rather than every five years, as indicated in Amendment 82. This would be a much more suitable solution.
My Lords, I will intervene. I was not intending to speak but I was prompted by a recollection arising from the reference to anaesthetists by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. I recall that the Centre for Workforce Intelligence produced in February 2015 a report on the future supply and demand of anaesthetists and the intensive care medicine workforce. I have just checked the report, and it projects for 2033 that the number of full-time equivalent staff required will be 11,800, and supply will be 8,000. Therefore, in February 2015, we knew of this set of projections produced by the CWI. It said, among other things, that there should be
“a further review in the next two to three years.”
However, the CWI was abolished in 2016 and its functions were restored, I think, to the Department of Health.
The noble Lord, Lord Stevens, did not refer to this directly, but we must bear in mind the general presumption that there has never been workforce planning, although in certain respects, there has. The report on anaesthetists is only one of a whole string of reports—I could list them, but I do not need to—produced by the Centre for Workforce Intelligence before it was abolished. Their main purpose was to say to Health Education England, “This is the level of education and training commissioning you should be undertaking in the years ahead”. As the noble Lord said in Committee, it did produce a set of proposals; it is just that they were not acted upon.
I just say this: legislation may be the right way to proceed now, but let us not lose sight of what is actually required, which is for Health Education England not to have its budget cut, as happened in 2016, but to have its budget increased and for that budget to be turned into an education and training commissioning programme that delivers the numbers of trained professionals in this country that we project we will need. It is no good saying, “Oh, we’ve never had planning; we passed a piece of legislation.” I am sorry, it could be a case of legislate and forget unless the money is provided and the commissioning happens. There have been organisations whose job it was to do it—Health Education England, the Centre for Workforce Intelligence—but they were not supported, and in one case, abolished.
My Lords, I support Amendment 111 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, to which I have added my name, and Amendment 80 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege. On Amendment 111, I want to emphasise two points. First, GPs are and have always been the gatekeepers to the NHS. Without GPs, there is less primary care and less access to the NHS. Over 90% of patients access the NHS through their GPs and primary care. If you are unlucky enough to live in an area with a serious shortage of GPs, your access to NHS services is highly likely to be diminished and your health put at greater risk.
My second point is that it follows that a shortage of GPs is also likely to contribute to health inequalities, a topic much discussed during the passage of the Bill. In addition, this is likely to mean that you live in a place which the Government say they want to level up. So, if the Minister accepts the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, he will be helping to deliver two government objectives: reducing health inequalities and levelling up. What’s not to like? Who knows—he might even get a promotion out of it.
I turn briefly to Amendment 80, which I support and will vote for if the noble Baroness pushes it to a vote. I want, however, to emphasise two points that follow on a great deal from what the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, said. For too long the NHS has relied on buttressing its inadequate system for training home-grown staff by recruiting from abroad. Brexit and tighter immigration policies have significantly reduced this supply line. It will take long-term planning and consistency of purpose over many years to rectify the health and care workforce supply problems.
My second and last related point on workforce is that the track record of the Department of Health on long-term planning is appalling. It is not just me saying that; it was made absolutely clear in the report by this House’s Select Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS and Adult Social Care, so ably chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Patel, who unfortunately, as we all know, is laid low by Covid. Those who support Amendment 80 should hear the arguments in the debate on Amendment 112, which would support its implementation. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, thought that something more elaborate than Amendment 80 was required. That may be the case, particularly for social care, but Amendments 80 and 112 complement each other. They are not rivals or alternatives; they put in place a structure thoroughly independent of government and which requires the Government then to pay attention to what has been independently provided.
My Lords, it is clear that there remain huge and serious concerns across the House and beyond regarding how the Bill addresses the chronic staff shortages in our health and care services. I say health and care services, because as we know, the staff shortages affecting the delivery of services are not just within the NHS but felt across the board, in health, care and public health services. While this is a current and urgent issue, future workforce planning will be the single most important factor in limiting our ability to deliver the ambitions we all have for the future of health and social care and importantly, the ambitions of the Bill.
Like many other noble Lords, I have the greatest respect for my noble friend Lady Cumberlege, and if she feels that the current duties the Bill places on the Secretary of State in Clause 35 to report at least every five years are inadequate, then I urge the Government to take note. As my noble friend said when she introduced her amendment, she is not alone: at least another 100 organisations are calling for this aspect of the Bill to be strengthened. I ask the Minister today, therefore: if the Government are not planning to accept the amendment, how do they plan to address the challenges of future workforce? How will they assess the future needs of health, social care and public health services? Previous work has not quantified the workforce numbers needed and we cannot wait for another review.
I have a couple of observations on the amendment itself, which I commend in that it does require the Secretary of State to report on this wider health, social care and public health workforce, unlike the current Clause 35, which refers only to the health service. However, I sound a note of caution, because if we simply assess vacancy rates, or get into the mindset of needing to replace like for like, role and service development, which will be essential to support future health and care services as they evolve, risk being stifled, as my noble friend Lady Harding referred to.
Those who hold much of the data on health and care professionals are not only the royal colleges, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, mentioned, but also the regulators. I note that proposed new subsection (4) of the amendment does not mention health and care regulators, which I think should be consulted, in the spirit of my noble friend’s explanatory statement.
Finally, when describing the system in place for assessing and meeting workforce needs, as training and regulation are UK-wide, I hope there will be a spirit of co-operation between NHS England and the devolved nations to ensure that we are training the right people for the right roles across the UK NHS: this needs to be in any future workforce assessment as well. I also cannot understand why we do not accept that the royal colleges in Glasgow and Edinburgh can help us recruit. That seems completely bananas—that is the technical term. Will the Government accept that we cannot put workforce planning yet again into the “too difficult” box? We need to do more and go further, as my noble friend Lady Cumberlege urges. I accept there are no silver bullets, but the regular publication of independently verified projections of future demand and supply of workforce could, over time, create a sustainable model for improvement that would have a positive impact on both patient care and staff experience.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, on the way she introduced Amendment 80—it was masterful. I point out that she took this amendment from the right honourable Jeremy Hunt, who unfortunately failed to get it through the House of Commons. In doing so, he expressed his regret that, when he was Secretary of State, he was not able to put in place a structure such as the noble Baroness proposes today.
The noble Lord, Lord Stevens, and the noble Baroness, Lady Harding, have both commented that it is self-evident that we need a workforce adequate to meet the demand. To do that, we need to anticipate increasing demand, changes in demographics, population growth and changes in practice. Crucially, we need to put in place resilience to health shocks. If we do not do that, we will continue to struggle to reach the OECD average of 3.7 doctors per 1,000 people, which is reasonable. To get there, we actually need 50,000 more doctors.
However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, pointed out, this is not just about doctors. It is also about nurses and, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, it is about allied health professionals. We need to train them all in a timely way, given, as the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, pointed out, how long it takes to train all these health professionals.
The Prime Minister claimed in the House of Commons recently that we have 45,000 more people working in the health service than before the pandemic. Unusually, that may be true, but it was not clear whether they were full-time professionals. However, that number bears no relation to the demand. There is no point in quoting raw figures if they are not related to the rise in demand. Moreover, there are fewer GPs than before the pandemic, and that is where people’s access to the NHS begins. If someone cannot get to see a GP, they cannot get a diagnosis or a referral, and their disease gets harder and more expensive to treat. Having too few GPs is not a cost-effective strategy, so I support Amendment 111, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and also his Amendment 168.
Having too few staff means more staff leaving the service because of stress and burn-out and the realisation that staffing levels are too low to be safe for patients or staff. Staff also know that even before the pandemic bed occupancy levels were too high to allow for the resilience we need in the system, and so they leave.
The amendment also refers to social care staff and public health staff. On social care, a couple of weeks ago we talked in this Chamber about ambulance response times, and noble Lords all know that the reason why ambulances are too slow to go to patients is that they have to stand outside A&E because they cannot move their patients into A&E. A&E cannot move patients into the main hospital, and the main hospital cannot move its patients into social care because there are not enough staff and placements to give appropriate social care. That is why it is very important that the amendment covers social care staff too. The pandemic has shown us how important public health staff are. That is why that reference is there.
We know that this amendment alone will not solve the staff shortage, but without it we will never reach safe staffing levels. We will continue to have disruptive and expensive staff turnover, we will fail to reach OECD average numbers and we will certainly never tackle the backlog of procedures built up during the pandemic. For health and care staffing to be sustainable, we need a rolling plan of needs assessment and training. Without an independent assessment of the need, how can anybody possibly plan for the health and care staff that we need? It is just not possible.
As the subject of nurses has been so powerfully addressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, I shall also say something about that. I believe that Amendment 80 will serve nurses just as well as it will serve doctors and all allied health professionals. We on these will focus our votes on Amendment 80 in the hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, is reassured and will not feel the need to move Amendment 82.
This powerful debate has focused on two simple truths. First, without the full team of people in place at the right time, it will not be possible to provide the health, social care and public health services we need. The second simple truth is that this will not just happen on its own. I am therefore glad to have put my name to Amendment 80, joining the noble Baronesses, Lady Cumberlege and Lady Brinton, and the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, in so doing. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, for her impactful introduction of the amendment. I share the view of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that this is the amendment to focus on, the one that will take us in the direction we need to go.
It is hardly surprising that the need for workforce planning has come up time and again during the passage of the Bill, and it is not going away. Workforce planning is at the core of all the plans, yet it remains unresolved and continues to cause considerable disquiet, including in the Health and Social Care Select Committee. We know this is an urgent requirement to tackle, and I hope that, even at this late stage, good sense will prevail and the Minister will be able to give the assurances that your Lordships’ House seeks.
The lack of sufficient staff, trained and able to deliver care, is the biggest issue facing the NHS and social care. Whatever claims are made about how many staff there are, they are meaningless unless posed against what is actually required. Since the Bill was published there has been universal opposition to the limited and inadequate provision in Clause 35. As my noble friend Lord Hunt noted, the Treasury’s robust resistance to publishing anything that sets out properly the gap between the number of staff required and of those in post is a badly kept secret. I regard that as short-sighted for all the reasons that have come up in the debate thus far.
It is reported that a record number of 400 members of staff are quitting the NHS every week. The United Kingdom has 50,000 fewer doctors than we need, and there are currently 100,000 vacancies. Workforce planning needs to be in place to give us the chance to assess and tackle the workforce crisis. Today we have the opportunity to put that right. As we have heard, the amendment is supported by a major coalition of some 100 health and care organisations. As my noble friend Lord Bradley said, it also takes strength from giving the opportunity to consult a comprehensive range of organisations and groups that know the reality of what is needed to run our care services. We should add our support to that.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and the noble Lord, Lord Patel, for adding their support to my Amendment 81. It tackles the same problem, but from the bottom up. Without the foundation of a workforce plan, no ICB can plan anything properly, as they are required to do by other parts of the Bill. There is also the wider point that the national strategies or definitions of systems planning have no reality unless they transfer down to those who actually have to deliver the outcomes. We know that there are widespread and well-evidenced arguments in support of workforce planning. I urge the Minister to accept the wisdom and the reality of these amendments and to take the opportunity to fix a challenge that surely is not going away.
My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for bringing the discussion of workforce planning before the House today. Perhaps before I go further, all noble Lords will want to join me in wishing the noble Lord, Lord Patel, a speedy recovery. He definitely would have spoken in this debate if he had been able to join us. I should also say that I was particularly impressed by the double act of the noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Stevens. Perhaps they will be known in future as the Morecambe and Wise of the House of Lords.
We all agree that the workforce is at the heart of our NHS and social care. It is right to ensure that we have the workforce that we need for the future to keep delivering world-class, safe and effective healthcare. Some noble Lords may not like to hear this, but I remind them that we have a record number of nurses. We continue to look at different ways of recruitment, and in response to Oral Questions I have referred to the way that we are looking at different pathways into nursing for British people. It is also a fact that we have always recruited people from overseas. Indeed, our public services were saved, post-war, by people from the Commonwealth coming to work in public services. I remind noble Lords that now we have left the EU we will no longer give priority to mostly white Europeans over mostly non-white non-Europeans. We will focus on ensuring that we have equality across the world.
I will not repeat what I have said about other issues, but if you are to have workforce growth, which we all want, it must be accompanied by effective, long-term workforce planning. That is why the department has commissioned Health Education England to work with partners to develop a robust, long-term strategic framework for the health and regulated social care workforce for the next 15 years. This includes regulated professionals working in adult social care, such as nurses and occupational therapists, for the first time.
I am sorry to interrupt the Minister but when I listened to that last statement about Health Education England, I wondered whether he had seen the article in the Economist of 5 February, which shows that the guaranteed forward funding of Health Education England extended to less than a month ahead.
I am grateful to the noble Lord because that was a point I was hoping to come to when I lost my line. The budget will be agreed by the start of the new financial year and, as in all previous years, following the outcome of the 2021 spending review, spending plans for individual budgets in 2022-23 to 2024-25 inclusive will be subjected to a detailed financial planning exercise, and it will be finalised in time. We have also commissioned NHS England to develop that long-term workforce strategy and the key conclusions from this work will be set out.
Clause 35 will increase the transparency and accountability of the workforce planning process. Noble Lords referred to Her Majesty’s Treasury. The department is working closely with the Treasury to deliver a bigger and better NHS and social care workforce. The spending review 2021 provides a further £23 billion for the NHS for April 2022 to March 2025 and gives a three-year settlement. It will keep building a bigger and better-trained workforce.
Noble Lords also referred to agency staff. The flexible staffing policy aims to provide sufficient temporary staff to the NHS to meet fluctuations in demand. In 2015 the Secretary of State announced the introduction of several measures to reduce the agency spend, including price caps, procurement frameworks and expenditure ceilings. These have contributed to the NHS reducing spending on agency staff by one-third, but we recognise that there is more work to be done. We also recognise that the health and social care workforces are often spoken about separately, and the department is working to integrate the two workforces, as outlined in the integration White Paper. Noble Lords will recall that, in addition, we have started a voluntary register for care staff, which we hope to move to being mandatory in due course, following a consultation to better understand the landscape of the workforce, and to look at different qualifications and make it a better career.
We know that work on long-term workforce planning at a national level will need to be replicated at a local level. Subject to the passage of the Bill, ICBs should be the vehicle to support that. To guide that work, in August 2021 NHS England published draft guidance for ICBs explaining their central role, ensuring that the health and care system has the necessary workforce to meet the needs of the populations it serves. A copy of this guidance has been laid in the House Library. In addition, the amendments on ICBs’ forward plans and annual reports will require ICBs to report on how they exercise their duty to promote education and training for the current and future workforce.
Amendment 82 refers to safe staffing. The Government are committed to ensuring that we deliver safe patient care and that there are safe staffing levels across the NHS. Safe staffing should remain the responsibility of local clinical and other leaders, supported by guidance and regulated by the Care Quality Commission. The ultimate outcome of good-quality healthcare is influenced by a far greater range of issues than how many of each staff group are on a shift, even though that is clearly important, and it is why the Government are committed to continuing to grow the workforce.
I now turn to the amendment addressing GP distribution. We fully support the intention, particularly as part of our agenda to level up and recover from the pandemic. However, the pandemic’s impact on the workforce is not yet fully understood and the system is moving to meet the impact in new ways. As a result, a review of GP distribution is likely to be premature but, as noble Lords will recall, we have opened new medical schools in areas where there has been a lack of workforce, in the knowledge that many people stay in the areas where they were trained. That is part of our plan to make sure that there is more equitable distribution. We will also use the targeted enhanced recruitment scheme to incentivise trained doctors to work in hard-to-recruit areas.
On Amendment 168, we will act on the underlying issue of underrepresentation of the royal colleges in the appointment of consultants. My officials are looking to undertake improvements regarding these regulations and what has been said is clearly common sense. Both royal colleges referred to have great reputations; many great surgeons and others have been trained there in the past—indeed, Arthur Conan Doyle studied in Edinburgh. It is important to remember that this is common sense. I assure the House that I am advised that the current regulations do not prevent trusts seeking alternative members to contribute to the consultant appointment process.
I am grateful to everyone who contributed to the debate. I hope I have given some reassurance. I hope noble Lords will recognise that I have engaged with them on a number of different issues in an attempt to close the gaps. I am afraid that, on this issue, I am unable to go much further at this stage. On that basis, I hope—perhaps in vain—that my noble friend will feel able not to press her amendment.
My Lords, thank my noble friend very much. He has certainly gone as far as he can today; I am afraid it is not far enough. We have had informal conversations on this and I think it is no surprise to either of us that I was hoping for a great deal more. We have heard 17 speakers and the debate has taken around an hour and a quarter. It has been such an interesting debate—I always learn more in this Chamber, and I learned so much more today.
I want to thank the 17 speakers who have supported my amendment. As far as I can see, not a single one had any reservations about Amendment 80, because it is so simple. It is not groundbreaking; it simply wants a plan that people can recognise, and one that will fill the gaps in the workforce requirements according to demography and the needs of our population. The amendment is simple and clear, and it will make such a difference, not only to those working in the NHS but to the public, whom we are here to serve.
I thank all those who have taken part, particularly from my own Benches, and all the other noble Lords. I have to say, with some regret, that I have not heard anything that counters the arguments put forward. I was hoping that after Committee we might have found some common ground, but I sense that we have not. I am disappointed by that, so I seek to test the opinion of the House.
Amendment 81 not moved.
Amendment 82 not moved.
Consideration on Report adjourned until not before 4.01 pm.