Anaesthesia Associates and Physician Associates Order 2024

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Excerpts
Monday 26th February 2024

(3 months ago)

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Portrait Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab)
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My Lords, I was a member of the GMC until the end of January, so at the council meetings I was involved in a number of discussions about the responsibilities of the GMC in the lead-up to this order being laid. Unsurprisingly, I strongly support it.

I listened to the noble Baronesses, Lady Bennett, Lady Brinton and Lady Finlay, and clearly they raised issues that the Minister will need to respond to. However, the combination of statutory regulation by the GMC and a proper governance framework within each employment body seems the most appropriate course for us to take. Therefore, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, that passing the order is the best way to secure the safety of patients, which is why I hope the House will give it resounding support tonight.

My second point comes back to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, on democratic accountability and legitimacy. The Minister mentioned that a combination of the Health Act 1999 and the Health and Care Act 2022 has brought this order before us. Since I took the 1999 Act through this House, I feel some responsibility to stand up for what it essentially aims to do. The whole problem of regulation of the professions in the health service is that it has never had the priority it deserves from the Government. The Law Commission reported in 2014, and here we are 10 years later, just about getting round to the first tranche of orders that we need to modernise the regulation of our health professions.

If you rely on primary legislation to make this kind of change, nothing will ever change. It is slow enough with secondary legislation, but with primary legislation it becomes almost impossible to get sensible change made. All the regulatory bodies are utterly frustrated that they have very old-fashioned processes and procedures, because they do not have the discretion needed to make changes that would be to both the public’s and the professions’ benefit. Therefore, I am glad we have this order and I hope we can follow it through.

My third point is about the noble Baronesses saying that they do not like the campaign of what is essentially vilification that has been going on over the last few months against the physician and anaesthetist associates. I wish they had paid a little more tribute to the members of those professions and the fantastic work they do. I have met physician and anaesthetist associates, and they are going through a torrid experience. They have been subjected to a nasty campaign and, even in their own employing body, there have been reports of bullying at work and they have been subjected to rude and antagonistic comments from colleagues.

What is the context in which we are to judge this litany of mistakes that they have made? They seem to be isolated examples and, to my knowledge, there is no comparative data on errors by consultants, principal GPs or postgraduate medical trainees. I would not like to see a list of all their mistakes. What would happen if we asked people to report mistakes made by F1 medics each August? The BMA is playing with fire in the campaign it has adopted of putting these poor professionals, who are doing their best, in this frame. I protest about this and the general lack of medical leadership from the profession when it should have been defending the associates. The way it has run away from this issue has been a disgrace. It will find that its lack of leadership and strength will bite it in future. I have not been impressed by the way in which employing authorities have dealt with this either; they have left individual AAs and PAs to withstand the pressure and bullying without the support they need.

The Minister needs to reflect on some of the points raised. First, in addition to declaring his confidence in physician and anaesthesia associates, he needs to set out a long-term plan for their contribution to the NHS, ensuring that the voices of those professions are heard. The Government’s ambitions on the numbers of AAs and PAs seem very modest. Why? Does he think we need to revisit that? Secondly, he needs to make it clear to NHS England and to employing authorities that bullying and intimidation of any healthcare professional in their employment must not be tolerated.

Thirdly, in response to the noble Baronesses, Lady Brinton and Lady Finlay, the Minister needs to ensure that each employing body adopts an appropriate local governance framework to deal with some of the issues that they have legitimately raised. Fourthly, we need research on the clinical outcomes of physician and anaesthesia associates and, frankly, comparative data with other health professionals. That is the only way to deal with the toxicity of these lists of mistakes that have been circulated. Finally—here I agree with the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay and Lady Brinton—there clearly needs to be a plan of communication to the public to explain the role of the associates and the contribution they can make in future.

The order is important. Some legitimate issues have been raised, but equally we need to defend the associates, uphold the work they do and give them confidence about the future.

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait Baroness Watkins of Tavistock (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interest as a NED of the NHS Executive. I support this order, for many of the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has just explained, but stress that I am extremely unhappy about the division between the reports from various medics and the associates that are planned. One of the big problems is that we do not value junior doctors enough. The phrase we use is inappropriate. I have been married for 43 years to a doctor who has been called a house officer, a senior house officer, a registrar and a senior registrar—those things would now be referred to as a junior doctor. I want to put that on record.

I also support what the two noble Baronesses have said, which is that we need a distinguishing factor for a qualified doctor, be that “MD” or whatever else is selected by the medical profession. I am a nurse, and I am proud of being a nurse. We have nursing associates, but I know that I am a registered nurse and I know that I have a doctorate, but I would never refer to myself as a doctor in the clinical area. These issues are difficult to deal with because we need to value people’s different experience and training.

I was appointed by a previous Secretary of State to chair the grandfathering of the paramedics on to the new register, when it came into being, and look at the success that that has been.

Lord Winston Portrait Lord Winston (Lab)
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My Lords, I regret to say that I totally disagree with my noble friend speaking from the Front Bench, a person for whom I have the greatest respect, both as a colleague and as a previous Minister of Health in an earlier Government. He is not medically qualified; he is not a doctor who has been in practice. I speak simply as a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and—it seems a bit immodest to say this—I was the triennial gold medal holder at the Royal College of Surgeons in London for innovative research. I never know quite how I got that award, but I did, and it hangs in my lavatory—I probably should not say that either.

There is a very serious issue here: anaesthesia. I do not want to frighten anybody, but I am not exaggerating when I say that there is no point at which a doctor has a patient closer to death than when the patient is anaesthetised under a general anaesthetic. It is then that things can happen which are completely unexpected, and there are all sorts of ways that the qualifications of that anaesthetist are incredibly important. Doing anaesthesiology is, most of the time, deadly dull; nothing goes wrong, you sit there quietly while the surgeon carries on acting out his wonderful role leading the operating theatre and controlling everything. The person who is really at risk is the person who is under anaesthesia, and that is something we should never forget; it is really important.

We do not even understand fully how anaesthetics work. It is true to say that even though we use gas and other agents, how they work exactly on the brain is not certain and we are still learning, years after the first anaesthetics in Victorian times. We have to recognise that this is quite a strange area of medicine, and that is why I am making this speech.

I want to tell a story about an anaesthetist friend of mine with whom I worked. Before I was doing regular in vitro fertilisation, I did a huge amount of reproductive surgery—surgery in the pelvis and telescope examinations, including laparoscopy. He and I worked as a team regularly on a very large number of patients, with complete success. On one occasion, I had a young woman, who was only 19, as my patient. She had severe abdominal pain, and I wondered, for somebody that age to have that pain, whether she had some unusual condition, and I thought she should have a laparoscopy.

My anaesthetist, as he always did, went to see the patient before the surgery and examined her to make certain she was well. He took her into the anaesthetic room and started with the anaesthesia, while I was waiting in the operating theatre. Then, quite suddenly, my anaesthetist friend wheeled the patient in on a trolley and said to me, “Robert, I think we have a spot of trouble here”. That was all he said, but there was something in his tone of voice and I thought, “This is really a weird thing for him to say”. The patient was unconscious and not intubated, and she remained unconscious. Her heart went and she had, in effect, died. We got her on to the operating table and I, as the surgeon, had a decision to make: what do I do? Do I, as the person leading the team, interfere, or do I leave it to my anaesthetist, in whom I had complete trust? I asked him whether he thought I needed to do heart massage or various other things. He said, “No, hang on for a bit”.

NHS: Dementia Commission Report

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Excerpts
Thursday 22nd February 2024

(3 months ago)

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Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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We have set out a dementia good care planning guide to exactly those commissioners because, as ever, we need uniformity in these areas. Part of the strength of ICBs is that they have freedom to deliver local services, but we have to make sure that they are always achieving at least the minimum levels that the noble Lord referred to. That is what the guidelines are about, and we are setting monitoring against that to make sure that they are delivering on it.

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait Baroness Watkins of Tavistock (CB)
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My Lords, I have two questions. First, I understand that NICE will review rather than approve the drugs in question. Secondly, it appears that they extend life but that the end of life is still very similar, so what do the Government intend to do to ensure that carers have sufficient respite and that there is a standard ratio of Admiral nurses to support families, certainly for the next decade until science gives us the answer?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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The noble Baroness is correct that the science is unfortunately not there yet. That is why we are investing £160 million a year in research, because more needs to be done. In the meantime, and I suspect for ever, we will need to make sure that support networks are around this space, and the voluntary care sector, for want of a better phrase, is a vital part of that. We are making moves towards it; we are giving respite care and making some payments. I freely admit that there is more we could be doing in this space, but we have done quite a bit as well.

Maternity Services

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Excerpts
Thursday 25th January 2024

(4 months ago)

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Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait Baroness Watkins of Tavistock (CB)
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My Lords, I draw attention to my registered interests in healthcare. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, for bringing this important debate to the Chamber. Her speech was an absolutely laser-focused analysis of the current situation and summarised many of the issues that I will return to—without, I hope, too much repetition.

The current state of maternity services in England is of concern to many stakeholders, but this must be put in context. Most expectant mothers and their significant others receive high-quality care during pregnancy and are delivered of healthy babies. However, the latest CQC report rates 10% of maternity services as inadequate and 39% as requiring improvement. This margin of error in such a vital service is really concerning.

Shockingly, safety and leadership remain particular areas of concern, with 15% of services rated as inadequate for safety and 12% rated as inadequate for being well led. I think we can all agree that this is an unacceptable failure of the women, their partners and babies in this country. Of particular note is the fact that poor provision is disproportionately failing many mothers form minority-ethnic groups, as others have outlined, but also white women who suffer economic deprivation.

Many factors contribute to this situation. Part of it might be that there has been less regard for the profession in the last decade than there was. I remember coming to the end of my general nurse training, just 500 yards down the road, and being asked what I was going to do next. I said I wanted to do mental health nursing, and I still remember the sister tutor saying to me, “But you’re bright enough to be a midwife”. We should hold on to that. I am happy to tell you that I got an obstetrics certificate so that I could work abroad and ended up as a mental health sister with a mother and baby unit in that ward—so I actually used it wisely.

Midwives are now men and women, and we do not seem to have recognised that in some of our structures in multidisciplinary teams. With men, we hoped that it would improve the provision of employment for midwives, as well as double the amount of people from whom we could recruit the pool. That does not actually seem to be working as well as we might have hoped.

Quite frankly, most multidisciplinary teams face large, unmanageable caseloads, and have to work with what—in some areas—are unsafe staffing ratios. To my mind, they often do not receive fair compensation for their important work. As commended by the CQC 2023 report, midwives and staff on maternity wards go above and beyond, when possible, to provide the best care.

However, services are being pushed to breaking point. As has already been acknowledged, it is estimated by the Royal College of Midwives that we have 2,500 full-time vacancies. This obviously leads to overload and understaffing in some areas, and the quality of care provided is put under threat. This is recognised in the 2023 NHS England Three Year Delivery Plan for Maternity and Neonatal Services, which highlights that supporting the workforce to develop skills and extra capacity is vital to providing future high-quality care.

I want to put this in context. When I went off to do mental health nursing as a second qualification, I was paid as a staff nurse. Now, it is almost impossible to get a second qualification without going back on a bursary. I will leave that for people to think about. I therefore support the commitments that have been made to ensure that trusts will meet staffing levels and achieve full rates for midwifery by 2027-28. However, it remains very difficult for a registered nurse to do a shortened course to become a midwife. I therefore suggest that women will continue to face what some do now: hurried care with staff having little time to provide truly person-centred support.

Like many other contributors to today’s debate, I have my own children and know that good health during pregnancy and labour and postnatally is vital. So is good healthcare. If you do not start with good health and then have poor healthcare, that is a pretty difficult situation. Staff need time to listen to mothers and fathers and to act when concerns are identified. As I have told this House before, with my first child, I felt ill. My husband came to visit me in the hospital the day she was born. I do not remember this, but apparently I grabbed his hand and said, “You will look after this baby if I die?” Then he realised he should go and talk to somebody, because this was not the way I normally talked about things. I had fantastic, fast intervention and had my baby within half an hour—who I am pleased to tell you is now a taxpayer. That was a good, cost-effective solution, but too often people do not listen to significant others, who sometimes understand very well what mothers are saying. We therefore cannot rest the whole responsibility on the mother in a time of distress.

It is necessary to think seriously about access to interpreters on a 24-hour rota system, so that women who are unable to speak or understand English because it is not their first language can be assisted in communicating with the staff caring for them. We have situations in some areas in which it is impossible to get an interpreter. That makes the situation really difficult, both for the midwives and for the mother. One cannot always rely ad hoc on a relation interpreting what is really going on. Can the Minister comment on how access to interpreters is monitored within the NHS and, if this is not being undertaken, can he ask the Government to make provision to do so? I have been informed that this is particularly important in genetic counselling in families from cultures that are different from those of the midwives involved.

Staff are often unhappy due to pressure at work, in part associated with low levels of staffing. As other noble Lords have said, it is also because senior midwives are retiring or retiring earlier than planned, for a variety of reasons. Many who are leaving are specialist mid-career midwives, whose skill set cannot be easily replaced, particularly in terms of supervising student midwives. I am really proud that the daughter who is the taxpayer is a teacher. However, teachers get rewarded on top of their salaries for supporting student teachers if they are the lead in it. This is an example of something we could learn from.

In part, retention issues reportedly stem from inflexible working practices. Flexible working is difficult to manage in a 24-hour, seven-day service. I know; I have tried it. However, some trusts have much better retention than others. How can best practice be shared and replicated to retain midwives across the NHS services?

The stress of unmanageable expectations at work is creating burnout, as some others have reported, and encouraging some midwives to leave the profession. Perhaps we should think about a structure for sabbaticals for some midwives. Midwifery is, at the best of times, hard physical and emotional labour. We do not always recognise that. When things go well you get the rewards but, as my noble friend Lord Patel has just spoken about, when things go badly it can be devastating.

Capacity is being undermined by a lack of investment in continual staff development. This is highly worrying because, as others have said, we face an increase in complex births, as more women are giving birth over the age of 35—as I did—maternal diabetes has increased, the use of induction and caesarean has increased, and pre-term births are becoming more common. These cases require specialist skills so that mothers and babies are safe. However, a lack of training and development opportunities for midwives, both men and women, can lead to a deficit of skills that are vitally needed for our specialist services to survive in the future. Midwives need to be skilled at recognising complications in pregnancy, ensuring that they pass those to other members of the multidisciplinary team for assessment, so that, wherever possible, early intervention can be undertaken.

The vast majority of our student midwives in England report having to take on additional debt, over and above the loans available to students, to cover their basic costs. This is undoubtedly putting people off coming into midwifery. The National Union of Students reported a worrying drop in applications to university courses, from 13,500 in 2021 to just over 10,000 in 2023. Can the Minister say whether the Government will consider the NHS undertaking loan repayments for university fees after, say, three or five years of NHS service? It would aid the retention of midwives, nurses and indeed junior doctors, as well as other professions allied to medicine.

Our midwives work tirelessly to provide the best care they can, but they are often unable to do so because of the issues highlighted by other noble Lords and in my own contribution. We must ensure that these issues are tackled, so that every woman is provided with truly person-centred, skilled and compassionate care, and that all babies have the best possible start. The Royal College of Nursing has produced nursing workforce standards that could apply to paediatric intensive care units. Similarly, the Royal College of Midwives has provided evidence on the necessary ratios of midwives to expectant mothers at differing stages of pregnancy. Are this Government prepared to consider legislation on workforce standards in the NHS in future?

Adult Social Care: Staffing

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Excerpts
Tuesday 12th December 2023

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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It is absolutely understood that, to have a highly motivated workforce, you need to look at everything—pay and conditions, and training and motivation. We see that while, on average, staff turnover is almost 30%—which is way too high—about 20% of care home providers have a turnover of less than 10%. Why is that? It is because they are investing in their staff and they have a training programme. That is why we are trying to do a similar thing. The national care certificate that we are putting in place will take time; for it to be valuable, we will need to put the right things in order, including the digital platform to pay the 17,000 providers. These are all parts of the reform, which will make a difference.

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait Baroness Watkins of Tavistock (CB)
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My Lords, does the Minister accept that many delayed transfers of care from hospital are associated with difficulty in getting social care in people’s own homes? In rural areas, we are still not paying for time spent travelling. Surely there is something we could do much more quickly, before the training certificate, to employ local people in a fair way to provide care in people’s homes, particularly in rural areas.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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The noble Baroness is correct about that; it is a key pillar of this reform. This is why we have tried to learn one of the main lessons from last year, by putting the £600 million discharge fund out early, so we can get those sorts of measures in place. That is why we have expanded the virtual care ward network to 10,000 beds, with the idea that people can be cared for in their own home but with support from the staff there. That is absolutely the direction we are moving in.

Learning Disabilities and Autism: Solitary Confinement in Hospital

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Excerpts
Thursday 23rd November 2023

(6 months ago)

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Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait Baroness Watkins of Tavistock (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as a NED at NHS England and as a qualified nurse. I commend my noble friend Lady Hollins on her thorough report on the current use of solitary confinement for autistic people and people with learning disabilities using in-patient hospital services. I remind people that the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, has written a book, Health is Made at Home, which argues that hospital should be for therapeutic intervention for short periods. This report clearly shows that that is not so for this cohort of patients.

The report raises key issues around the use and overuse of solitary confinement methods and outlines important recommendations for the improvement of care. However, rather than making my heart break, this report made me angry in the same way that another report, Sans Everything—that report was about long-term care in mental hospitals—did 50 years ago. We need to turn the anger and broken hearts into positive action.

I wholeheartedly support the concept that there should be no long-term use of solitary confinement for autistic people and people with a learning disability. However, I wish to highlight the need for discussion to consider in more detail other patients’ safety and well-being when people are in relatively confined environments. In addition, nursing staff are sometimes put at risk in understaffed, outdated clinical environments when, due to an acute autistic episode or meltdown, an individual patient resorts to violence that is difficult to cope with, often because of the reasons just given about inappropriate responses. Such circumstances can be distressing for other patients and staff.

Additionally, this debate should acknowledge the challenges that staff face due to high patient-staff ratios, which make truly individualised, person-centred care difficult to deliver in many circumstances. Agency nursing is used because it pays better but such nurses often do not know the individuals well enough to know how best to respond.

I state my full support for recommendation 12 of the report. Funding is needed to deliver person-centred interventions in order to reduce the use of solitary confinement vastly. This needs to be accompanied by funding to support staff’s continued education, training and professional development.

Although I agree that it is necessary to have formal recording and notifying practices in instances where solitary confinement has been used, I question the feasibility and staff resource requirements in the details of recommendation 6, in particular reporting immediately to the CQC. An alternative proposal could be that notifications to ICBs should be made if solitary confinement measures have been used for an individual in two or more instances in a set period, for example for more than 12 hours on two occasions within 10 days. However, reports should also be made to the boards that are responsible for the delivery of care.

Recommendation 7, which recommends that clinical contracts be agreed before admission, may not always be achievable in a situation of acute crisis. Therefore, I suggest that it should be clinical policy that contracts are agreed within five days of admission as a maximum and that pre-admission contracts are always considered best practice.

Finally, with regard to recommendation 8, which aims to secure family visiting rights for autistic people in solitary confinement, we also need to secure the rights for the autistic person to refuse such visits. Family relations can be very complex and, in some situations, abusive; therefore, in extremely rare situations, unwanted visits can lead to increased distress among autistic people and people with a learning disability. However, I must stress that I am a firm advocate of the visiting options in recommendation 8, which would also require people being cared for much closer to home than many are at the moment in order to make regular contact achievable. Too many people are sent too far from home, often to private health facilities, with possibly 10 different contractors for just one or two patients. This makes it difficult to maintain good relationships between providers and purchasers and to oversee the quality of care that is being delivered.

I ask the Minister: do His Majesty’s Government acknowledge that, although some of the recommendations may not be achievable without changes to the Mental Health Act 1983, many of them could be with additional financial investment to pilot programmes based on the suggestions in the report and to provide training for staff in order to ensure that they can safely deal with de-escalating crisis situations to reduce significantly the use of solitary confinement? We owe autistic people and those with learning difficulties more rapid change to the situation so ably outlined in this report. We would not stand for delay in introducing contemporary practice for people suffering from cancer or diabetes.

Mental Health Act 1983

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Excerpts
Tuesday 21st November 2023

(6 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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Yes. I have tried to get into this further, and my understanding is that lot of the trouble is that there is often a fear from black and ethnic-minority people of the existing institutions that can help people early on. As we all know, with mental health difficulties, we have to act quickly. A lot of this is about getting everyone in society open to the idea that the earlier they can go to these sorts of places, instead of trying to brave their way through, the better. That is one of the key things to do to make sure that we do not then see problems down the pipeline, including the disparity whereby a black person is 11 times more likely to have community reviews and the disparity in detentions.

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait Baroness Watkins of Tavistock (CB)
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My Lords, I think that other noble Lords will welcome the idea of sitting down at a round table to look at the future. In particular, what do the Government intend to do to invest in children’s and adolescents’ mental health services to make them accessible in schools? Early intervention will prevent a high proportion of people needing to be sectioned later on.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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The noble Baroness is absolutely correct. With the mental health units to detect problems early, we are now at around 35%; last year it was only 25% but in the next 18 months or so we should be at 50%, which is higher than ever before. I freely accept that 50% is not 100% but it is clearly a step in the right direction. The £2.3 billion investment we are putting in means 350,000 extra places for young people as well.

King’s Speech

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Excerpts
Thursday 9th November 2023

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait Baroness Watkins of Tavistock (CB)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to contribute to this debate on the King’s gracious Speech, and to acknowledge His Majesty’s Government’s commitments for this Session. I declare my interests as chair of Look Ahead, a housing association that supports homeless people, and as a non-executive director at NHS England.

First, I turn to education. The Children’s Commissioner emphasises that school attendance is an absolute priority if children are to be offered the best start to further their ambitions, relationships and learning when in school. However, current data demonstrates that, since schools have reopened after the pandemic, one in five children remains persistently absent, on average missing at least one day in school a fortnight or 1/10th of the academic year. This means that 1.8 million children are regularly missing education.

It is suggested that the social contract between schools and parents had been broken following the lengthy period of school closure and that many children are waiting for mental health support and education, health and care plans. The wait is reportedly two years in some situations. So, while I support the Government’s intention to introduce a register of children not in school, can the Minister explain how this information will be used to support those children and their families to increase school attendance? Will there be a national or local authority register of waiting times for assessment for education, health and care plans, with clear targets for achievement in the way that there is, for example, for NHS cancer targets? We know that the future health and happiness of those children regularly missing school are severely impacted if mental health intervention and tailored educational support are not available within—shall we say, conservatively—six months of regular absence.

Secondly, what early years entitlement will be made available for younger children? The Early Education and Childcare Coalition reports that only 17% of nursery managers say that they are likely to increase the number of places they provide due to the difficulty in recruiting staff. Can the Minister say whether it is the Government’s intention to re-establish a career development hub at the Department for Education for a national apprenticeship scheme in early years education that will encourage not only women but men into this important area of work? There is probably a need to restart the graduate-led grant scheme.

The King’s Speech was deeply disappointing in having no reference to reforming the Mental Health Act 1983. Others have spoken about this, but in 1983 I was a junior lecturer introducing the changes to staff in the Lambeth health authority. I distinctly remember a slide that said, “This is a really interesting review, but remember that it is only a review of the 1959 Act, and we will have a proper, new Mental Health Act soon”. That was 40 years ago. There was a manifesto commitment in both 2017 and 2019 to reform this. It seems to me that this particular revision has been on a waiting list for a minimum of 40 years. Yet over 53,000 people were detained under the Mental Health Act in 2021-22, many, of course, for appropriate assessment, support and treatment.

However, significant disparity between ethnic diversity and detention under the Act continues, with white people five times less likely to be detained than those from different racial communities. Does the Minister agree that, while reforming the Act is long overdue, that should not stop us enhancing patients’ rights and strengthening safeguards for those admitted to hospital much sooner than an Act might come? I believe it is essential that we find sufficient resources to ensure that we can deliver high-quality, compassionate care—which is often in the community—before we review the Mental Health Act, if we are not to get it in this Session.

We know that many people with significant mental health needs are in prison, when many would be far better served by proper community support and treatment in safe, secure housing—particularly before they offend. Sometimes, individuals who have significant mental health challenges offend because they are homeless and have difficulty in claiming benefits and accessing the healthcare system.

I acknowledge other noble Lords’ contributions to this debate on the proposed reforms associated with housing, leasehold and renters; I will leave it to others to speak on that. I hope that this will result in fairer systems, but it will not result in a significant increase in social housing, which is completely vital to improve healthcare in this country.

Finally, I welcome the Government’s commitment to supporting the NHS workforce plan and hope that, in the longer term, this will have a positive effect on current waiting lists, which are in part due to a shortage of qualified staff as well as the Covid pandemic. However, I was concerned to hear the Minister say that he believes that the pandemic was a once-in-a-generation situation; I only hope that he is right, because we need to be ready in case we get a second wave. Do not let us be complacent; we need the right social care to support people if that happens.

I commend the proposals relating to tobacco and vapes. As many noble Lords know, my concern about the use of alcohol by young people remains, and I wish that there had been something about that too in the Speech.

Suicide Prevention Strategy

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Excerpts
Thursday 26th October 2023

(7 months ago)

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Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait Baroness Watkins of Tavistock (CB)
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My Lords, can the Minister assure us that DWP staff are being trained properly in recognising the suicide risk of such claimants? One of the most important things is that people largely want to work and getting rejected following job interviews is a huge risk for that particular population.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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Absolutely. It is my understanding that all front-line DWP staff have two days of mental health training in precisely this area. Also, their stated objective is to support people in what they can do and support them into work based on their abilities. We all know that work gives people a big feeling of self-worth and confidence and is a key to both physical and mental health.

NHS Long-term Workforce Plan

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Excerpts
Tuesday 4th July 2023

(10 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord. He is quite right to say that we need to check against delivery and he is quite right to hold us to account on that. Personally, I am happy to commit whatever time we need to debate this because I completely agree on how important it is. As I say, it is quite sobering when you think about the figures: as we said, we expect one in eight school leavers to go and work in this sector, so we almost cannot spend too much time on that.

As I say, the dental plan will be published shortly, and making sure that the balance is right, and that it is seen as an attractive option to be an NHS dentist versus working in the private sector, is absolutely an important part of that as well.

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait Baroness Watkins of Tavistock (CB)
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My Lords, I very much welcome this plan and in particular the fact that we will start to deliver more homegrown healthcare workers; in fact, the WHO has applauded us for these moves because there is such an international shortage, not because overseas workers are not welcome here.

I want to ask one question. I very much support the concept of apprenticeships, but professional workers on registers, be that nursing, medicine, physiotherapy or paramedicine, expect apprenticeships to be degree-level apprenticeships, accepting that the entire workforce will not be graduates but that registered clinicians should be. Can the Minister please clarify that issue?

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness. The whole idea of the apprenticeship is that the standard that you are training to is absolutely the same, albeit obviously you are getting there via a different route. However, as regards the capability, training and knowledge of that person, clearly, whichever route they have come from, they need to be at that same required level. That is why the royal colleges have been such an important part in the development of this whole plan.

Mental Health In-patient Services: Improving Safety

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Excerpts
Monday 3rd July 2023

(10 months, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait Baroness Watkins of Tavistock (CB)
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My Lords, I welcome the Statement, but I will raise two issues. First, it seems that several different bodies will look at what the problem is, yet the ombudsman has just said that it is absolutely imperative that

“The Department of Health and Social Care should commission an independent review of what an effective set of patient safety oversight bodies would look like”.


Could the Minister comment on how that will be considered in tandem with the proposals outlined in the Statement?

Secondly, will the proposals look at a safe staffing model for all in-patient mental health services? In fact, in-patient services are really looking after only those people who have severe mental health problems; they are almost the equivalent of an intensive care unit in a general hospital. Increasingly, staff do not have time for proper continuity of handover when they leave shifts, and that needs to be examined. It is relatively easy to describe somebody’s blood pressure and blood stats in an intensive care unit as you hand over in a general area, but to describe the complexities you have been working with, for example with somebody who has severe schizophrenia and is deluded and paranoid, takes a good 10 minutes in a handover. I would welcome the Minister’s comments on how we will look at ensuring that that is considered when measuring safe staffing.

Lord Markham Portrait Lord Markham (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness. The points she rightly makes are exactly what we believe is the remit of the new HSSIB review starting from October. One of the specific points is about developing safe therapeutic staffing models for all mental health in-patient services. I think and hope that the exact points raised by the noble Baroness will be addressed by the review.