Debates between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 5th Apr 2022
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments
Wed 23rd Mar 2022
Wed 16th Mar 2022
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard _ Part 1
Thu 3rd Mar 2022
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2
Tue 1st Mar 2022
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1
Tue 1st Mar 2022
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2
Mon 31st Jan 2022
Mon 31st Jan 2022
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2
Wed 26th Jan 2022
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1
Wed 26th Jan 2022
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2
Wed 26th Jan 2022
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 3
Mon 24th Jan 2022
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1
Mon 24th Jan 2022
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2
Tue 18th Jan 2022
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Lords Hansard - Part 1
Thu 13th Jan 2022
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Lords Hansard - Part 2
Tue 11th Jan 2022
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage & Lords Hansard - Part 1
Tue 14th Dec 2021
Thu 18th Nov 2021
Wed 20th Oct 2021

NHS Mental Health Patients in Private Hospitals

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Thursday 28th April 2022

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have, if any, to address the reported £2 billion per year the NHS is paying to private hospitals to take on its mental health patients as a result of bed shortages.

Lord Kamall Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Kamall) (Con)
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Non-NHS providers have always played a role in delivering NHS services for patients since the founding of the NHS. The CQC regulates both NHS and independent providers to deliver care to the highest quality. The Government and the NHS have an ambitious transformation programme to increase investment in community mental health services and to introduce new models of care so that more people are cared for in their communities, reducing reliance on inappropriate in-patient admissions.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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I thank the Minister. I beg the indulgence of the House to record that this is my last outing as opposition health spokesperson—although I shall be taking up other Front-Bench duties so your Lordships have not escaped completely. I wish to record a huge thank you to colleagues across the House with whom I have worked over many years; my especial thanks to the small but perfectly-formed Labour health team, my noble friends Lady Wheeler and Lady Merron and indeed the Back-Benchers; and my thanks to the many Ministers whose well-being I may not always have enhanced over the years.

On this Question, the issue is not whether it is a good use of NHS funding to spend £2 billion a year on privately provided mental health beds. It is about whether, given the parity of esteem for mental health recently reinforced in the brand new Health and Care Act, the Government have a plan to invest in reversing the decline of mental health beds and increasing the number of NHS mental health beds available at community level, as the Minister mentioned, where they are needed, and over what period.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I begin, if noble Lords will allow me, by paying tribute to the noble Baroness for her doughty and robust opposition, but also for the advice when I was a new Minister suddenly thrown in at the deep end. It was very comforting to have one of the Opposition help me and give advice—I make no comments about the quality of the advice but I was incredibly grateful. I also pay tribute, to requote her words, to the perfectly formed shadow team. I thank them very much for all their holding us to account.

On the issue, when I was looking at the future of mental health, one thing we have to look at its granularity. There are different types of mental health; someone suffering from eating disorders, for example, will have a very different need from someone who is schizophrenic. It is really important that we do not just assume that everyone needs to be in a bed. Where appropriate, we should move people out to the community but make sure that they are supported there, not just kicked out the door and left to fend for themselves. We are looking at a massive programme of investment and at how we can have more targeted interventions for those suffering from different mental health issues.

Health and Care Bill

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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I shall be very brief, because it is time we draw this ping-pong session to an end. First, I congratulate the Minister on his introduction to the tele-abortion amendment, and on the reassurance that he gave to the House and the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton. The issue has been expressed very eloquently by the noble Baronesses, Lady Sugg and Lady Barker, and I have no intention of going into detail.

The only other matter before us right now on which we need to take a decision is that of the amendment put by the noble Lord, Lord Crisp. From these Benches, I need to say that we absolutely support the noble Lord in his amendment, and we will vote with him, if he divides the House.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate and the debates throughout the day. We managed to stick to the point and tried to be as brief as possible. I am afraid I will not be as brief as the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, but I will try to be briefer than I usually am.

I should just make some acknowledgements, looking at the whole group. First, on learning disabilities and autism, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, in her absence, for her constructive engagement with the Government.

On tobacco, I once again urge noble Lords to reject Amendments 85 to 88 and 88B. The independent review is not scheduled for publication until May, when we will of course consider our next steps. I understand that the noble Lord told us to get on with it, but we do not want to pre-empt the independent review. As it is in the process of being drafted, we really want to make sure that we have proper consultation and agreement, both across government and across the UK with the devolved Administrations.

I hope the noble Lord is in no doubt that we are also committed to the tobacco plan and the reduction of smoking. We just do not feel that this is the right amendment, but the noble Lord may feel otherwise. Any changes to tobacco legislation proposed by the Khan review, a plan supported by the Government, will be consulted on. We firmly want to make sure we reach our smoke-free 2030 ambition or get as close to it as feasibly possible.

There is a debate about the polluter pays principle. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, will recognise the debate about Pigouvian taxes, taxing negative externalities and who is responsible. Who is the polluter? In the car industry we tax the driver, as they put more petrol in. Should it be the smoker or the industry? There is a debate about this, but I hope these issues will be considered by the Khan review.

I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, for his constructive engagement on reciprocal healthcare. I am pleased that we were able to narrow the gap and get to the same place.

I turn now to the telemedicine abortion issue. The Government felt that we should have gone back to pre-pandemic measures, but it was right that there was a free vote. We saw the results of the votes in your Lordships’ House and the other place, and we accept them. The democratic will of both Houses is quite clear. At the same time, we also accept that there were some concerns, as my noble friend Lady Eaton rightly said, about underage women being forced to have abortions and safeguarding. My noble friend Lady Verma also made a point about issues in certain communities; we know that these things go on in certain communities and that there are close relationships.

After the reassurances I gave at the beginning, my noble friend Lady Eaton said she was reassured enough not to push her amendment to a vote. I hope that remains the case and that my noble friend has not been persuaded otherwise. It is important that we consult, treat this sensitively and get the appropriate guidance, but the decision has been made by both Houses and we have to make sure that it works and that we address some of the legitimate concerns that noble Lords have raised in this debate.

Given that, I ask this House to accept the Motions in my name.

Health and Care Bill

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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As noble Lords know, I am still learning. I will take a moment to mark the end of the Bill’s passage through your Lordships’ House. Its size reflects the Government’s ambitious agenda for change and the NHS’s requests to help to deliver this change. The Bill intends to strip out needless bureaucracy, improve accountability and enhance integration, and it will form the bedrock for the NHS to build on in years to come.

I will express some words of gratitude. In many ways, the many meetings, the debates and even the late nights during the passage of the Bill have, I believe, shown this House at its best—informed, collaborative and considered. I am grateful to all noble Lords for their intense scrutiny over the nine days of Committee and four days of Report.

I pay tribute to the willingness of noble Lords, right across the House, on all Benches, to engage with me and my officials to find ways to improve the Bill. As well as being grateful to the Labour and Liberal Democrat Front Benches for at times challenging us and at other times agreeing and co-operating, I thank a number of Cross-Bench Peers, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, Lady Watkins of Tavistock and Lady Hollins, and the noble Lords, Lord Stevens of Birmingham and Lord Patel—who sends his apologies—for their always constructive contributions. I should perhaps also thank noble Lords on the Benches behind me and reflect that the challenge was sometimes from them.

As a relatively new Minister, thrown in at the deep end—your Lordships can see how new I still am from my asking, “Am I on yet?”—I also thank my colleagues on the Government Benches, who have assisted, advised and, I have to admit, consoled me at times throughout the passage of the Bill. I pay tribute to the kind support and advice of my noble friends Lord Howe, Lady Penn and Lady Chisholm of Owlpen.

I also put on record my thanks to the wide range of stakeholders which have engaged with me and many noble Lords, including the NHS Confederation, NHS Providers, the King’s Fund, the Nuffield Trust, the Health Foundation, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the Local Government Association, for their sustained and constructive engagement over several years. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that the Bill is better for all their work.

It would be remiss of me not to pay tribute to the work of colleagues across the NHS, government and the devolved Administrations, who have worked so hard behind the scenes. In particular, I thank my fantastic Bill team and the departmental policy teams supporting them, all of whom have been assiduous, helpful and uncomplaining at all times, despite very long hours. Perhaps I should give a special shout-out to 10 month-old Teddy Povey, son of the Bill team manager. You say that you are getting old when the policemen look younger, but I must say that I felt very old on seeing that the policy officials are getting younger. I pay a special tribute there, on his early introduction to politics.

I thank officials across government, including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Department for Education, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Ministry of Justice, the Cabinet Office and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. That shows the sort of cross-government dimension to this Bill.

There is no doubt that your Lordships have improved the Bill. I hope that noble Lords across the Chamber will recognise that the Government have listened, considered and responded positively to suggestions where we were able to. However, I also recognise that there are some areas still to be resolved and where, to use my oft-used phrase one more time, we were unable to close the gap between our positions, including on social care, workforce planning and reconfigurations, on which the House of Commons will want to make its voice heard—and to which we may return in debate. But the areas of disagreement should not overshadow the improvement that all noble Lords have made to the Bill. Together, as a House, we have banned hymenoplasty; introduced a power to create a licensing regime for non-surgical cosmetic procedures; extended the gamete and embryo storage limits; made important commitments to safeguarding children; and strengthened the NHS’s commitment to net zero. On a subject close to my heart and that of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, we have included specific references to tackling inequalities.

We send to the other place a Health and Care Bill that is improved with its three underpinning principles reinforced: embedding integration, cutting bureaucracy and boosting accountability. I beg to move.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, I was rather hoping that we would do one of these. I agree with the Minister that we have improved the Bill; it is a much-improved Bill that we are sending back to the Commons, and I hope that they have the good sense to accept all the wise amendments that this House has made.

I also say to the noble Lord, Lord Kamall, that this is his first Bill, and it has been a baptism of fire for him. It is a very large Bill to cut your teeth on. I think that he has had a bit of a masterclass on legislation and legislative processes, but I compliment him on how he has risen to the occasion and thank the whole ministerial team, including the noble Earl and the noble Baroness, Lady Penn; I was about to call her Baroness Jo-Jo, sorry. I also observe that this is a three-baby Bill. The leader of the Bill team and the noble Baroness, Lady Penn, have had babies, and our adviser who started out on the Bill, Rhian, has also had a baby. That is probably quite unusual in your Lordships’ House.

I say thank you, of course, to my wonderful colleagues, my noble friends Lady Wheeler and Lady Merron, and also to the Labour team behind me, particularly my noble friend Lord Hunt, who has been especially active on the Bill—and very welcome that has been, too. We have worked very well across the House, and we have been very pleased to work with the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, as well as the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, at a distance, and with many colleagues on the Cross Benches. If I start listing them, I know that I shall forget someone, but I need to mention the noble Lord, Lord Patel. He has not been with us for as much of the Bill as he would have liked, but of course his wisdom has been with us all the way through the Bill.

We are sending the Bill back to the other place, and I suspect that we are all going to be busy when it starts pinging and ponging back.

Commissioner for Patient Safety (Appointment and Operation) (England) Regulations 2022

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Monday 21st March 2022

(4 months, 3 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, the first thing I did when preparing for this debate was to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, if she was content—of course I did. Since her shocking and moving report First Do No Harm, mentioned by the Minister and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and during the passage of the Medicines and Medical Devices Act, there has been active cross-party support for the recommendations in that report and a determination in this House to bring about change. This SI is another step along that path.

As one would expect, the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, is involved in the appointment—and will, I suspect, be involved in the work—of the new commissioner. I join the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, in asking why we are discussing this SI when action has already been taken. The reason this SI and the commissioner’s job are important is that when people, often at their most vulnerable, put their trust in the hands of healthcare professionals they do so in the expectation, quite rightly, that their safety will be of paramount concern. Sadly, that is sometimes not the case. Even worse, sometimes the patient is not heard. Where those incidents have taken place, patients have been made to jump through hoop after hoop in their fight for recognition and voice. The independent patient safety commissioner will take steps to ensure that patient safety is a top priority and will act as a voice for patients.

There is no question that the noble Baroness’s report was a landmark in the fight to improve patient safety, so I praise her but also honourable and noble Members of both Houses for their work, whether on sodium valproate, Primodos or surgical mesh, who have stood up for the thousands who have suffered because patient safety was not taken seriously enough. My honourable friend Sharon Hodgson MP, for example, was at the forefront of championing these women.

Despite this, there remain several outstanding ways in which this Government could further improve patient safety. I welcome that, in this instance, the Government have taken on board the recommendation to provide an independent patient safety commissioner, but I would like to know from the Minister what progress has been made on the remaining recommendations in the review. I think all are agreed that that full package of reforms is essential.

I would also like the Minister to explain why the tenure is only three rather than five years. I realise that it is allowed to roll over for another term but, when you are setting up a new office with a new role and getting an organisation up and running, three years is too short a time. The Children’s Commissioner has five years. I would be grateful if the Minister could outline how and why that decision was taken.

We welcome the obligation on the commissioner to lay an annual report before each House of Parliament. There is an additional obligation for the commissioner to publish a business plan at the start of each year, which is not mentioned in the SI. What is the point of the commissioner providing a business plan if they are not held accountable for its contents?

Finally, I draw the attention of the Committee to the advisory panel that

“must consist of persons who (taken together) represent a broad range of interests which are relevant to the Commissioner’s functions.”

Will that include the patient voice? Will patients have representation on this board?

Of course, this SI has our support and we welcome it, but the Government should see it as a beginning, not an end.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I am grateful to the noble Baronesses who spoke today. Once again, I would like to echo their gratitude to my noble friend Lady Cumberlege, but I also agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, that a number of politicians in both places across parties raised a number of these issues. We have read some horrifying stories about some of the victims of the three issues that were raised. They are really heartbreaking in many ways.

My Lords, we are determined to deliver meaningful change in our response to the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review. We see the safety commissioner playing a key role in that change. I know there are concerns about the three-year and three-year-plus extension. When I was asking questions, right at the beginning of my awareness of this when I first became a Minister, I was told that three years is standard for a number of offices. So I was interested to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, talk about the term of the Children’s Commissioner being five years. The initial advice I was given was that three years is standard. There were also some concerns from other quarters about what happens if we appoint an ineffective commissioner; do we then have to wait five years to get rid of them? We think three years is the right balance, but it continues to be a subject of debate and I completely understand that.

I also take on board the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, that it is not only about women who have had mesh complications or valproate or the other issue; there will be other issues we come across, but this was set up as a result of the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review. We completely agree that patient safety must remain a top priority and we hope that this will not be the only way to improve safety. There is a statutory duty of candour, regulated by the CQC, which requires a trust to tell patients if their safety has been compromised and to apologise. There are protections for whistleblowers and “freedom to speak up” guardians; provisions in the Bill to establish, as the noble Baroness will be aware, the Health Services Safety Investigations Body; the implementation of the first-ever NHS patient safety strategy in 2019 with substantial programmes under way to create safety and learning; the implementation of medical examiners across the NHS as a critical reform, so that all deaths not involving a coroner are scrutinised by an independent medical practitioner; and of course legislation for the patient safety commissioner.

I am also in conversations directly with my noble friend Lady Cumberlege who, quite rightly, keeps pressing the department on the issues of valproate, vaginal mesh and the other issue, where we need some form of redress. I have mentioned to my noble friend where the concerns are and that, if we continue those conversations, I hope to close that gap as much as I can. I make no promises, but I hope noble Lords recognise that I do try to close the gap whenever I can, and I am in constant conversation with my noble friend Lady Cumberlege on that.

On top of this, we hope the patient safety commissioner will play a key role in that change, championing the view of patients in relation to medicines and medical devices. It is not particularly party political; this is important across the House. When the NHS performs brilliantly, of course it should be praised, but when things go wrong, we should find out. That then clearly makes it a patient-centred NHS, but it also means we can learn to make sure we have a better health service in the future. These things should not be swept under the carpet.

We hope the regulations before us will help us support the success of this new role, providing a sensible and clear legal framework within which to operate. In case I have not answered any of the questions, I will read Hansard and try to sweep them up and write to the noble Baronesses. Before that, I commend these regulations to the Committee.

Health and Care Bill

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, can I say how much I support this suite of amendments? I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, for tabling and speaking to them. This most lethal of killers has been defying science—or we at least have not had enough investment in the science—for many years. This means the survival rate is still not as it should be and as it is for other cancers. Anything that pushes the NHS and research community to tackle this and to set the targets that are needed to do so is very welcome. I look forward to what the Minister has to say.

Lord Kamall Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Kamall) (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for bringing forward this further debate on the subject of pancreatic cancer services. I begin by confirming that the pancreatic cancer audit is included in the national cancer audit collaborating centre tender, which is currently live. Reporting timelines are included in the specification for this audit, developed in partnership with NHS England and NHS Improvement. However, I hope noble Lords will understand that, during a live tender, the document is commercially sensitive and cannot be shared beyond the commissioning team, as this would risk jeopardising the procurement process. While I recognise that it may be disappointing that I am unable to confirm the timeline for the pancreatic cancer audit until the procurement process is completed, I can say that the future contract to follow the procurement process in relation to the clinical audits is anticipated to start this autumn.

The normal process for a new national audit is a year of development and set-up, followed by data collection and analysis. The publication of the data would then follow. However, on a more positive note—and I hope my noble friend Lord Moylan considers this response less dusty—I can confirm that, alongside the audit of cancer services, important actions are being taken to ensure that clinicians are able to take informed decisions. NHS England and NHS Improvement have ensured that guidance on pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy is shared with cancer alliances to disseminate to clinical teams in their area. NHS England and NHS Improvement will also continue to work with Pancreatic Cancer UK to raise awareness among the clinical community about the value of PERT for many patients with pancreatic cancer.

Noble Lords will be aware that NICE has a clinical guideline, NG85, recommending that PERT should be offered to patients with inoperable pancreatic cancer, and that NICE has also included PERT in its quality standard on pancreatic cancer. NICE clinical guidelines are developed by experts based on a thorough assessment of the available evidence, but they do not replace the judgment of healthcare professionals. They are not mandatory, but they represent best practice. The NHS is expected to take them fully into account in ensuring that services meet the needs of patients. Ultimately, the use of PERT in individual cases is for clinical decision-making, following a discussion between doctor and patient. As such, national targets would not be appropriate.

My noble friend asked another question on data. PERT prescription data is already published online through the English prescribing dataset. This shows that levels of prescription have been rising. The data does not currently differentiate between prescription for pancreatic cancer patients and for people with other conditions. However, NHS England and NHS Improvement will consider PERT prescription data during the scoping of the pancreatic cancer audit.

I end by thanking my noble friend Lord Moylan for his constructive engagement and for pushing the Government on this. But I hope that the reassurances I have given are sufficient to persuade him to withdraw his amendment.

Covid-19: Restrictions

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Monday 14th March 2022

(5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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Well, there we are: there is a result already—please never accuse me of working too slowly. In that case, it is quite clear that there is a programme, and I shall find out more details.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, three matters have emerged in the past few days: first, there is a new variant; secondly, as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, said, Covid cases have risen by 55% in the past week; and, thirdly, the UK Health Security Agency intends to stop funding the fantastically successful and important ZOE COVID Study app. I appreciate that this Government have an aversion to counting in general, but this app has been vital in tracking and understanding Covid-19, so how will the Government maintain their capacity to monitor this virus, which has not gone away?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for reminding noble Lords that the virus has not gone away. That is one of the reasons why we laid out the Living with Covid-19 strategy. The UKHSA, the Office for National Statistics, and a number of academics, will continue to monitor it. Noble Lords who have read all the articles during the pandemic will be aware of how many scientists are also producing data. We continue to monitor all that data and balance it up when making decisions. We are also prepared to stand up rapidly should there be any variants of concern.

Human Medicines (Coronavirus and Influenza) (Amendment) Regulations 2022

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Monday 14th March 2022

(5 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, as we know, the Covid-19 pandemic has been the most serious domestic challenge that we have had to face in the post-war era. We know that more than 150,000 people have been lost and we know about the impact on our lives and liberties. It felt to me, having been on these Benches in this position from right at the beginning of it all, that we might never get to this point. A lot has changed in the last few months, however. Thanks to our NHS, our incredible scientists and the British public who have been vaccinated in their millions, we now have several highly effective Covid-19 vaccines and the entire population has been offered the third booster jab. While the virus is still with us—we will discuss that in our next debate—we are without a doubt in a much stronger position than we were back in March 2020. The impact of the vaccination programme cannot be overstated. It has allowed us to reclaim liberties that we were forced to forfeit in 2020, driven down hospitalisations and saved lives.

This statutory instrument continues this good work. It will surprise no one that we do not find it contentious; in fact, it is wholly necessary that the amendments made the human medicines regulations are continued. This SI enables us to continue with mass vaccination campaigns for Covid-19 and influenza, and extends the temporary provisions relating to the manufacturing licences and marketing authorisation. It permanently broadens the healthcare groups that are entitled to administer parenteral vaccines in an NHS or local authority, and enables community pharmacists to deliver flu and Covid vaccines outside their normal premises. These changes are sensible and will ensure that, in any future mass-vaccination rollout, the resources will be available to administer those vaccines.

As I said, Covid has not disappeared. We need to be prepared and ensure that the population remains protected against rising case numbers and possible mutations. We know that one of the issues and challenges we face is how to reduce the health inequalities of vaccine uptake. The under-30s, some of our BAME communities and pregnant women disproportionately make up the 8.5%, I think, of the adult population who remain unvaccinated. I do not think that we can be complacent. I would therefore like the Minister to say what further action the department will take to reduce the inequalities in vaccine uptake, as well as how extending these provisions will enable his department to better tackle vaccine hesitancy. As the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, said, we cannot pass by without reference to the clinically vulnerable, clinically extremely vulnerable and immunosuppressed. They continue to seek clarity on vaccination in this extremely concerning time.

We have discussed these issues in the House on several occasions and continue to do so, because those who come into these categories need access to the full weight of what our science can deliver for them, as the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, said. However, they also continue to need access to free tests and appropriate treatment. So facilitating continued access to vaccination is a key pillar of Labour’s “living well with Covid” plan, but we oppose the short-sighted sell-off of our Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre. I would be grateful if the Minister could outline any further discussions that have taken place with his colleagues on VMIC and whether our vaccine manufacturing capability will be impeded by the ongoing negotiations. However, the message from this side of the Committee is that vaccines are safe and effective, and we must continue to ensure that they are widely and freely available. Only by doing so can we continue to build a world beyond Covid.

Turning to the second statutory instrument in this group, the early access to medicines scheme, managed by the MHRA, has been in place for almost eight years. As we know, it aims to provide patients who have life-threatening or seriously debilitating conditions with access to medicines that are not authorised generally or for the specific clinical use proposed. It provides the necessary regulatory flexibility for medicines that can often be a matter of life and death. As the Minister said, more than 100 medicines have been granted promising innovative medicine status; more than 40 scientific opinions have been awarded in areas with unmet patient need; and 1,600 patients have benefited from EAMS medicine since the scheme’s initial implementation. So we on these Benches absolutely support this SI.

Some pharmaceutical companies have raised the concern that EAMS is not delivering an attractive proposition for industry or the scale of early patient access originally envisaged. Furthermore, concerns have been expressed about a lack of clarity on how to apply for EAMS and how it works in practice. These areas for improvement are outlined in the EAMS independent review, which was published in 2016; I think at least one or two noble Lords have already mentioned it. Although the statutory instrument addresses some of those concerns, there are still a few areas on which we need to seek clarification from the Minister in due course. Placing the scheme on a statutory footing will give pharmaceutical companies and patients the necessary legal clarity. It is good that this SI is clear about the need to continue to protect patient safety and aims to simplify EAMS requirements where feasible. Most notably, this legislation will support the collection of real-world data, which will no doubt incentivise medical innovation. It is also important that the SI makes it clear that patient consent to data collection is not a condition of EAMS supply.

My Labour colleagues in the Commons have been engaging with various charities regarding the antiviral drug Evusheld, which is a preventive antibody treatment for the benefit of people with compromised immune systems who cannot get sufficient antibody boost from vaccines. There seems to have been an awful lot of dither and delay regarding this medication, which has left the previously mentioned CV, CEV and immunocompromised people feeling ignored and very anxious. I would be very grateful if the Minister could clarify this issue, if not now then perhaps in writing. I would also be grateful if he could set out what further actions the DHSC will take to improve knowledge of EAMS within both the health sector and the pharmaceutical industry.

Additionally, there is the wider issue of a complex research to clinical care pathway that the Government need to address. We need to ensure that we remove unnecessary barriers in research and medical innovation. I completely agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, when he talked about Orbis. He and I are veterans of the Brexit discussions of the past five years, which focused on the importance of having the right kind of access to patients, in the right numbers, to develop genetic and other medicine. I would be grateful if the Minister could talk about that.

I also echo the matter raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, which she called a “lull”; I have called it a “black hole”. It has been reported that for some pharmaceutical companies there is a black hole in the system once marketing authorisation is granted and EAMS designation falls away, which can leave a gap of several months when no further patients can access a drug as it goes through the NICE financial assessment. Again, this was recognised in the independent review and by pharmaceutical companies and charities, so I would be grateful if the Minister could provide his assessment of this issue and whether the department is considering means to ensure a smoother transition from EAMS to full HTC and NICE approval.

EAMS is a great illustration of the work that can be done when industry works alongside healthcare agencies with patient interests at heart, but we must not take our foot off the pedal. We need to keep working to ensure that cutting-edge research is properly supported and puts the needs of patients first.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I begin by thanking all noble Lords who took part in the discussions today for their detailed questions. I will try to answer as many as I can, but I hope noble Lords will understand that I will write to them if I do not have the answer to hand.

To start with a few of the general remarks made, I thank all noble Lords for welcoming these SIs as well as some of the innovation that we have seen throughout the pandemic and how we have seen the NHS work closely with the department and industry to make sure that we develop suitable vaccines and therapeutics as quickly as possible. My noble friend Lord Lansley was absolutely right to refer to the living with Covid strategy. The reason we have that is to make sure that we are not complacent: it is to remind people that the pandemic is not over. Sometimes people say that we have returned to life before the pandemic, but it is still there and, as noble Lords have rightly expressed, there are new variants that we are keeping an eye on, such as the BA.2 and deltacron variants. The important thing to note is that, compared with the beginning of the pandemic, we have weakened the links between infection and hospitalisation and between hospitalisation and death. Indeed, a number of noble Lords are testament to this fact: they have survived testing positive for coronavirus.

I will try to address some of the specific issues. My noble friend Lord Lansley and the noble Baronesses, Lady Brinton and Lady Thornton, brought up the issue of Evusheld; they are right that it is not currently authorised for use in the United Kingdom. As noble Lords have said, it has been developed as a potential preventive treatment, with AstraZeneca announcing positive interim trial data. However, worldwide, omicron is still the dominant variant, and this trial took place before it emerged, so the therapeutics task force is engaging with AstraZeneca on emerging data and its impact on omicron. This work is ongoing.

A number of people identified previously as clinically extremely vulnerable are well protected after receiving their primary and booster vaccination doses. I am not sure that I have an answer about the fifth dose, but I will find that out and write to noble Lords. Most people who were considered CEV are no longer at substantially greater risk than the general population and are advised to follow the same guidance. In previous meetings that I have had with the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, I have asked for her to be in direct contact with my officials and others, and I hope that those discussions are helpful. If they are not, I hope that the noble Baroness will let me know so I can intervene to see what more can be done. There remains a small number of people whose immune systems mean that they are at higher risk of serious illness from Covid-19, and enhanced protections, such as those offered by some of these treatments, are being looked at.

My noble friend Lord Lansley also asked about other schemes. As he will be aware, we have the innovative medicines fund and the cancer drugs fund—these are other paths we are looking at. NHS England, NHS Improvement and NICE recently consulted on proposals for the innovative medicines fund and we hope to have an announcement soon. On the Accelerated Access Review and the Accelerated Access Collaborative, we are committed to supporting patient access to these drugs. We created it for this reason and we remain committed to it. In fact, it was part of the Life Sciences Vision that we published in July 2021, and we see it as a crucial part. I understand that some medicine products are expensive to manufacture, and this may limit the schemes’ accessibility in some areas. If my noble friend has specific examples, I am very happy to have further discussions.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation etc.) (Revocation) (England) Regulations 2022

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Monday 14th March 2022

(5 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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The noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, has raised very many relevant questions, as did the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh. Those questions come from the anxiety that people are feeling about what the future of living with Covid means, with what looks like not having all the instruments to identify it or the recommendations about what to do if you have it. There is also the support that people may or may not be able to get from their workplace; and the support that may or may not be available to local authorities, for example, which are going to pick up some responsibility for this.

Almost exactly two years ago, my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer and I faced the Minister and his Whip, two Liberal Democrat colleagues, a couple of people who were chairing the sessions and a skeleton staff as we put on to the statute book the restrictions we are lifting today. Everybody else had already gone into lockdown; we put the legislation on to the statute book about three days after the rest of the country had gone into lockdown. It was a bizarre experience and actually felt quite risky. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Newby, will not mind me saying that he went home and told us the day after that he had got Covid. My noble and learned friend Lord Falconer and I were absolutely convinced that we were going to get it, because we had been sat very close together, but neither of us did at that point.

In a way, I am very pleased to see that we are rescinding these restrictions now, but the Minister needs to put some answers to what has already been put to him on the record. The first thing I want to ask about is the support for local government. If local government and public health authorities are to be picking up how to identify what to do about the pandemic if things get worse, I would like to know whether support is available to them to do that.

The second thing I want to raise is to do with monitoring and research. I excuse the Minister for not answering my question in the Chamber earlier, because it is quite hard to answer such questions in detail in the 30 seconds that might be available, but I will repeat the fact that the ZOE Covid study app is no longer going to receive its funding. The app was launched in March 2020, having been developed by King’s College London and the technology company ZOE to help discover new symptoms of Covid. It reported on the effects of vaccines and has provided up-to-date predictions about the spread of the pandemic. It has 4.7 million users, of which I declare myself as one, and 850,000 people contribute daily to its recording of more than 480 million health reports. The app was part of one of the largest studies of its kind in the world and has led to 40 peer-reviewed scientific papers, based on its findings.

Many noble Lords will have heard of Professor Spector. He has been doing weekly YouTube broadcasts that I have watched from time to time as part of my information gathering to do my job from these Benches more effectively. He has developed the study further to look at things such as heart disease, cancer and dementia. It is extremely disappointing and very short-sighted that the UK Health Security Agency is going to withdraw its funding for this programme. It has been an important tool in protecting the UK and could protect the UK from the next pandemic.

I want to hear from the Minister what he and the Government are going to do to replace the kind of surveillance that the ZOE app has provided to this country in a very cost-effective way. The Minister’s earlier answer to me in the Chamber said this and that, but he did not specify. We need to know why the Government have allowed this to happen and what they are going to do to replace this effective surveillance and reporting.

Thirdly, I would like the Minister’s view on the BA.2 variant. His honourable friend said that it is of no significance but that is not what the chief executive of the UKHSA said. She acknowledged it and said that we do not yet know whether it is significant. How do the Government propose to monitor this?

Finally, I want to talk about the problem of inequality that the Government’s withdrawal of free testing brings. I think it will mean us having two tiers of Covid in this country. Those of us who can afford to will continue to test because we believe that it is important to protect other people, particularly the vulnerable, when we go out and about. I do not want to come into the House of Lords without having a test in the morning because I would hate to bring an infection into the workplace, because of the young people and pregnant colleagues who are here. That would be irresponsible. But there will be those who cannot afford to buy tests; what do they do? Our part-time staff here, for example, might not be able to afford to test. The Minister needs to address the problem of the inequalities that the Government’s policy will bring about for those who may get Covid but cannot afford to test.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords for their questions today. I will try to answer as many as possible but, if I do not answer some, I hope that noble Lords will allow me to write to them in more detail.

I start with some of the questions from my noble friend Lady McIntosh. We have taken this step because of the success of the vaccination programme but the guidance states that, if you have Covid, you should stay at home and avoid contact with other people. On 21 February, we will continue to make tests available for a small number of at-risk groups. We are considering which groups will be eligible for tests after provision for the general public ends. We have also sent out 1.3 million PCR tests to clinically extremely vulnerable individuals. This will allow them to take an immediate PCR test, should they develop symptoms, and give priority to them to be prescribed antivirals.

UKHSA will continue to maintain what it calls critical surveillance capabilities. That includes the Covid-19 infection population-level survey, genomic sequencing and additional data. These will continue to be augmented by the SARS-CoV-2 immunity and reinfection evaluation, SIREN, along with the continuation of the VIVALDI studies. As for the assertion of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, that the VIVALDI studies are coming to an end, I do not have that information—I am, in fact, informed that they are continuing. So, the UK Health Security Agency still has a number of tools available, including surveillance. Positive cases should stay at home, as we said, and avoid contact with other people for at least five full days. They should continue to follow this advice until they have received two negative test results on consecutive days.

A number of noble Lords expressed concerns about the communication of this guidance. If they will allow me, I will go back to the department and ask more questions about the comms strategy to make sure that the public are clearly informed. As for the cost of LFTs, the Government are looking at how to make them freely available in particular settings, such as health settings, and for social care staff.

We are also looking very hard, as noble Lords have rightly said, at potential inequalities. These are issues that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and I believe very strongly in—we have actually asked questions on this issue. How do we make sure that we do not end up with a two-tier system? How do we target this more effectively? Are there proxies, for example, to allow people to be given free tests? We are also looking at engaging with retailers to develop a strong private market for tests and make sure, I hope, that they are affordable. At the same time, we are in discussions with employers, et cetera. Some have said they will make testing available for their staff and we are looking at a number of different programmes. We are very aware of the inequalities issue and the Secretary of State and I have been asking questions about that.

On the number of cases, as indicated by the ONS infections survey and reported case rates, they have started rising after a period of sustained falls throughout February. Evidence indicates that the link between Covid-19 infections and progression to severe disease is substantially weaker than in earlier phases of the pandemic but, as I said, we are continuing to keep an eye on all the variants of concern with the tools that I explained.

People who are severely immunosuppressed are eligible, as many noble Lords will know, for a third dose of the Covid vaccine as part of their primary course and a booster fourth dose. I am also very aware that the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, asked me about a potential fifth dose and I promise to write to her. The NHS is now offering new antibody and antiviral treatments to people with Covid-19 who are at the highest risk of becoming ill.

I was asked about local authorities. Local authorities will now be required to manage outbreaks through their local planning and pre-existing public health powers, such as those under the public health Act of 1984, as they would with any other infectious disease. The Department of Health and Social Care is also conducting work looking at the health powers framework for the future. We see that local authorities still have an important role in supporting businesses and public spaces to be Covid-safe—for example, by improving knowledge of infection prevention and control, ensuring that spaces are well ventilated and explaining the relevant best practice guidance.

A number of noble Lords wondered whether movement from mandating to guidance is sufficient. When I was travelling in today, for example, I noticed that some transport companies are still asking their passengers to wear masks in crowded places. Noble Lords made fair points about the communication of this guidance. As I said, I will find out from the comms team what we are proposing to do. The Government will retain the capability to stand up a national trace response if it is needed. Local health teams will also continue to use contact tracing and provide context-specific advice where they assess this to be necessary as part of their role in managing local outbreaks of Covid-19, as they do with other infectious diseases.

A number of noble Lords asked about the number of people who have yet to be vaccinated. Was that the previous debate? I am sorry; they kind of flow into one another at the moment. However, we are spending £22.5 million on a community vaccine champions scheme, following a £23 million investment in the initial scheme. We will continue to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Health and Care Bill

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Lord Kamall Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Kamall) (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for bringing this debate to the House today. I am sure that the Secretary of State will be grateful for the desire to save him from himself and his powers. Let me read out the following quote:

“If we went out to Parliament Square now and straw-polled people walking by, asking them who they thought was responsible for the NHS in England at a national level, I think we would wait a very long time before anyone gave any answer other than the Government and, by extension, the Secretary of State”.—[Official Report, Commons, Health and Care Bill Committee, 21/9/21; col. 393.]


These are not my words, but those of the Opposition spokesman during Committee in the other place.

One of the core pillars of the Bill is to ensure appropriate accountability for the NHS. This is of the utmost importance as we invest further in local service decision-making and delivery. It is critical that, in line with the aims of the Bill to empower local systems, the Secretary of State has the appropriate levers to meet the public expectation for ministerial accountability.

There has been some confusion about what the powers in the Bill will do, and if noble Lords will allow me, I will spend a moment on this to add clarity. Clause 39 will simply allow the Secretary of State to direct NHS England—and only NHS England—on matters where it already has functions. This is not a power over local bodies. Clause 40 and Schedule 6 will allow the Secretary of State to call in and decide on reconfiguration decisions. They do not remove any of the existing safeguards, including the requirement to consult or the role of the Independent Reconfigurations Panel in providing advice to the Secretary of State.

I understand the arguments put forward in Amendment 83, and I will take procurement first. We agree that it is inappropriate for the Secretary of State to be involved in individual procurement decisions. That is not the motive behind this power, and it is not the way it would be used. The regulation-making power inserted by Clause 70 prevents the Secretary of State being able to use this direction-making power to direct NHS England—

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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The Minister said that this was not the motive behind the power, but motive is not the point here. I am sure that the Secretary of State has the best of motives, as does the Minister, but the point is the effect of what the Bill says.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for clarifying that. Of course, we completely understand the concerns that have been raised. The Secretary of State must use regulation-making powers where they exist, rather than using the power of direction to achieve what could be achieved under regulations.

Turning to the allocation of resources to the ICBs, the Government have no ambition to use this power to interfere with individual allocations of money to the system. It will not be used to interfere with the independent Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation. NHS England will continue to make funding allocations to ICBs to support them to deliver functions via the target formula, in order to reduce inequalities between patients. We have attached safeguards to this power to make sure it is not misused. Any exercise of this power must be done transparently: it must be made in writing, be published and be made in the public interest. This will enable Parliament to challenge Ministers and hold them to account.

Turning to Amendment 84, Clause 40 and Schedule 6 will allow the Secretary of State to better support effective change and respond to stakeholder concerns, including views from the public, health oversight and scrutiny committees and parliamentarians, in a more timely way. The clause and schedule will ensure that key decisions made about how services are delivered are subject to democratic oversight.

It is a misapprehension that the Secretary of State currently has no role in the decision-making process for reconfigurations. He does and without these provisions that role will continue. However, currently, referrals usually come at a very late stage in the process, which represents neither good value for the taxpayer nor good outcomes for patients.

I understand the concerns from noble Lords, including former Ministers, about how these powers might be used. But I have been asked to make clear that we expect the vast majority of reconfiguration decisions to continue to be managed by the local system—

Health and Care Bill

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, I do not intend to speak about this for very long, because I feel that I am the least well-equipped person in the whole Chamber to do so—possibly with the exception of the Minister, which is often the way and is how I felt when I was a Minister; I would stand up to speak about research and other huge subjects and everybody else in the Chamber who had spoken certainly knew a lot more than I did, and that is the case here.

Noble Lords may recall that the starting point at Second Reading and in Committee was that there was no place for research in the Bill at all—so I congratulate noble Lords who picked this up and ran with it, and, indeed, the Minister and the Bill team on taking it on board and producing these amendments. That is helpful; as the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, said, it is about the future and it is exactly the right thing to do.

I also agree with the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and my noble friend Lord Hunt in their disappointment on the issue of NICE. They are quite right about the access and availability of medicine and devices to healthcare practitioners and that the system is still uneven; also, of course, nobody is asking how we are doing and whether it is working. It is a shame that these aspects have not been included in the Bill, but I suspect that the noble Baroness and my noble friend will probably live to fight another day.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken thus far in this debate. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, for expressing her confidence in my ability to understand these issues; I fear that she may be right.

Turning first to Amendment 29, it is firstly important to note that it is the MHRA, not NICE, that licenses these medicines in the UK. NICE makes recommendations on whether the price that the NHS pays for treatments represents value for money. Access to effective new treatments for NHS patients is a priority for the Government. That is why we have committed to maintain the funding requirement for NICE appraisal of recommended treatments.

The standard contract also stipulates that providers must ensure that formularies include all NICE appraisal-recommended treatments. NICE’s guidance on developing and updating local formularies also clearly states:

“When a NICE technology appraisal recommends a medicine, adopt the medicine into the local formulary automatically, if clinically appropriate and relevant to the services provided by the organisation. This process should take place within 3 months.”


I believe that this represents a robust legal framework for ensuring compliance with NICE’s appraisal decisions. A stronger legislative requirement to include all NICE-recommended treatments on formularies within 28 days of a NICE decision would remove any flexibility both to vary the timescale where there are barriers to implementation, or where a product was not relevant to a particular organisation.

Turning to Amendment 171, NICE rightly operates independently from the Government, and key to this is setting its own procedures for developing guidance and recommendations. This includes setting its own discount rate, taking into account the wider policy and fiscal implications. NICE recently carried out a comprehensive review of its methods and processes for making appraisal recommendations, and the changes that NICE is introducing will ensure that its processes are fairer, faster and more consistent. I assure noble Lords that NICE already aims, wherever possible, to make timely recommendations on new medicines with draft guidance around the time of licensing, and final guidance within three months of licensing. However, NICE’s ability to issue guidance depends on an evidence submission from the manufacturer. It would not therefore be appropriate to place a requirement in legislation for a specified timeframe when that is dependent on other organisations.

This amendment would also require NICE to take account of a company’s membership of the Voluntary Scheme for Branded Medicines Pricing and Access, or the statutory scheme, in making its recommendations on medicines. These schemes have a very different purpose from NICE appraisals, which ensure that new medicines are clinically and cost effective, and they are time-limited, so would create significant disparities between medicines launched at different times.

I turn now to Amendment 178. I hope I can assure the noble Lord that arrangements are already in place to regularly review and monitor delivery against priorities and objectives, including through accountability meetings, engagement with external partners and public board meetings. The Government believe that regular monitoring through existing arrangements is the right approach and do not consider that a requirement to carry out a review is necessary. I assure the noble Lord that the changes recently introduced by NICE will make its methods and processes fairer, faster and more consistent, will ensure that they are suited to new and emerging types of technology, and will provide more equitable access for those with severe diseases. The vast majority of cancer medicines covered by the previous end of life flexibilities would also be covered by the severity modifier.

Placing requirements on NICE through primary legislation to use specified processes would fetter its independence to determine its own methods and processes, and it would be unfair to operate two different approaches at the same time. The amendment proposed by the noble Lord could also impact negatively on cancer medicines that were not eligible for the end-of-life flexibilities in their first appraisal but may be eligible for the severity modifier.

Health and Care Bill

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, this is an important group, so it is a shame that we are discussing it so late in the evening. It is important because it contains essential broad things that people need to stay well in their community. It is about the bread and butter of people’s health—their GPs, dentists, the physios and pharmacists, getting podiatry services and getting the proper social care that you need to be able to stay in your home. It is literally about helping people to stay local and stay well. In many ways, that is why I enjoyed the three years that I spent on a CCG so much, because I knew that it was local and that every month I was going to be visiting a GP surgery. I knew all those things, and I felt that that was an important contribution to healthcare in my area.

The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, is particularly important. If primary healthcare and these local services do not work, the rest of the NHS falls over.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken on these amendments in this debate and in Committee, but I am also grateful for the discussions that we have had between the various stages and the conversations that noble Lords have continued to have with my officials—indeed, right up to the dinner break this evening. I shall speak to Amendments 34, 35 and 55 in my name, which I hope will go far in addressing many of the concerns raised in the debate.

We have heard the calls for greater clarity about what will be expected of ICBs in their forward planning. We also understand the importance of ICBs being transparent in discharging their functions to allow for public scrutiny and accountability. We have therefore brought forward these amendments to further clarify what ICBs must include in their forward plans and annual reports. These amendments provide that the forward plan must describe what services the ICB proposes to make arrangements for in the exercise of its functions. It must also explain how the ICB proposes to discharge each of its duties under new Sections 14Z34 to 14Z44. These duties include improving the quality of services, reducing inequalities, promoting the involvement of patients and carers in decisions about treatment and promoting the integration of health and social care services.

Amendment 55 requires an ICB’s annual report to explain how it has discharged each of its duties under new Sections 14Z34 to 14Z44. This would additionally include new Section 14Z47A, which is the new duty we discussed earlier requiring the ICB to keep under review the skills, knowledge and experience that it needs to discharge its functions and, when there are gaps, to consider what steps it can take to address or mitigate them. I hope that noble Lords will agree that these amendments represent a significant step forward in making sure ICBs are held accountable by ensuring that they are transparent in how they intend to discharge their numerous duties and functions.

I turn to the amendments proposed by noble Lords, and I shall address each of them as briefly as I can. On Amendment 19, I assure my noble friend Lord Farmer that the Bill already includes the power for ICBs to commission services or facilities for the prevention of illness under new Section 3A in Clause 16. The provisions in Clause 16 also require ICBs to act consistently with the Secretary of State’s duty for the promotion of a comprehensive health service, including in the prevention of illness. Further, new Section 14Z34 places a duty on ICBs to improve the quality of services including preventive services, and new Sections 14Z36 and 14Z38 place duties on ICBs to ensure that patients and carers are fully involved in these decisions, including about prevention.

I now turn briefly to Amendment 62, spoken to so ably by my noble friend Lord McColl and the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins. I also pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, who in my brief time in this House thus far has really educated me about dementia and the fact that, as we are living longer physically, this will become more of an issue.

The department is currently developing a new national dementia strategy for England, which will be published later this year. This will include objectives focused on restoring the dementia diagnosis rates and improving the diagnostic experience for people living with dementia, as well as increasing the number and diversity of people participating in dementia research. I take on board the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, about getting the many volunteers for clinical trials at the right time.

There is already work under way to help restore dementia diagnosis rates back to the target of 66.7% following the pandemic, supported by an additional £17 million to address dementia waiting lists and increase the number of diagnoses. Increasing participation in all types of research is a top priority and is in fact part of my portfolio. The UK has invested in a range of digital platforms, including Join Dementia Research, and we are now working to increase the scale of and interoperability between systems, improve diverse recruitment and reduce the burden and costs of clinical research delivery.

On Amendments 22 and 24, I reassure noble Lords that the Bill already contains requirements on NHS commissioning bodies to tackle health inequalities. Commissioners are also required to promote the right of patients to make choices with respect to services or treatment. This includes allowing patients to choose to be treated outside their ICB area. To support this, we expect ICBs to actively co-operate with each other. Furthermore, we have amended the duty on ICBs to have regard to the need to reduce inequalities between patients, proposing by government amendment to extend this to “persons”, in respect of accessing services. This means we are capturing everyone, not just people accessing services. This duty would encompass the need to reduce inequalities with respect to geography as well.

I now turn to Amendment 30. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. First, I should thank her for the daffodil I am wearing to celebrate St David’s Day. She assures me that it is not a listening device to eavesdrop on my conversations with officials. If she had eavesdropped, she probably would have been embarrassed by the amount of praise heaped on her. We acknowledge her desire to see strong provision of community rehabilitation and it is important that this is pushed up the agenda.

Under the existing Bill provisions, every ICB will be required to provide and improve rehabilitation services as part of its duty to provide a comprehensive health service. As an added layer of scrutiny, ICBs must publish an annual review detailing how they have discharged this function. Also, NHS England is currently working on a national intermediate care framework, digital and virtual pathways and models of care, improved data recording and reports, and interventions using a wide range of community assets and levers.

I now turn to Amendments 33 and 37 to 54. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Crisp, for his engagement on this issue—indeed, including right up to the dinner break this evening. We would like to put on record our gratitude to the noble Lord and the Royal College of General Practitioners for pushing us on this and reminding us that, as we move to ICBs, we should make sure that primary care is not the poor relation. In moving to ICBs from CCGs, where GPs and primary medical services have played a huge role, we have to ensure that these are not dominated by a few large trusts.

We understand and continue to recognise the importance of primary care. Indeed, primary care is taking on more of the functions of what would traditionally be considered secondary care, especially with some of the primary care services and community centres appearing in our local communities. Only this week, we have seen stories and press reports of pharmacists calling for more of the functions of GPs to be delegated to them. They have helpfully suggested that they could save the NHS money and also provide better primary care services by taking on some of those functions. There is clearly a demand out there and that has to be encouraged.

Before I turn to this, I note that we hold primary care in equal esteem to any other sector—acute, community or mental health. Right from the outset, we have said that primary care must not be lost and must be at the heart of the ICB. As the Integrated Care Systems: Design Framework said:

“Through a combination of their membership, and the ways in which members engage partners, the board and its committees should ensure they take into account the perspectives and expertise of all relevant partners”,


including primary care.

I know the noble Lord is especially concerned about why primary care is not explicitly referenced in new Clause 14Z50(1). I hope I can offer him some explanation. First, we are conscious that there are 43,000 primary care providers, and it is impractical to require each to be a partner in developing the ICB forward plan. Secondly, new Clause 14Z50 ties NHS providers to the plan, and a failure to play their part could trigger NHS England’s intervention. It will also guide the financial requirements imposed under Clause 24. In contrast, primary care providers, as private contractors, are bound to the plan in a different way, primarily through contracts. Thirdly, new Clauses 14Z50 and 14Z54, on the joint capital resource plan, are intimately connected and primary care capital is provided through other routes.

However, ensuring that the primary care voice is sufficiently involved in joint forward planning in integrated care boards is our common ambition. The law requires the involvement of a primary care representative drawn from primary medical services on ICBs, just as it does for acute providers. ICBs will have to consider how they can best access skills and knowledge across primary care.

In addition, there is a duty in new Clause 14Z52 to consult

“any other persons they consider it appropriate to consult”

about forward plans. We expect that, in publishing its plan, an ICB should set out how it has met this duty and consulted primary care and other partners. I am able to inform the House that NHS England has confirmed that its guidance will be explicit in its expectation that primary care will be a crucial partner in that process. We are happy to engage with the noble Lord further as that guidance develops to ensure that we stick to that commitment to make sure that primary care is at the heart of this.

More broadly, ICBs have the discretion to appoint additional members to the ICB or exercise functions through committees. Commissioning at a local level requires the expertise of primary care, and we expect it to play a significant role as many decisions will be taken at that level under the principle of subsidiarity. Further guidance will be published on the development of place- level arrangements, including the role of primary care.

I also note the Fuller review. NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard has announced that Dr Claire Fuller, senior responsible officer of the Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care System, will lead a review on how primary care networks can be supported in integrated systems. NHS England has announced that the review will set out how ICSs and primary care networks should go about improving out-of-hospital care. The findings of the review will then be applied to ICBs, subject to the passage of this Bill. We hope this work will help all ICBs to make progress on developing general practice in this area.

I hope I have been able to assure noble Lords that we hold primary care in great esteem, and have given the noble Lord some reassurance that primary care will be involved in every level of the ICB, its functions and planning.

I now turn to Amendment 177 from my noble friend Lady Hodgson. I thank her for continuing to remind us of its importance and speaking movingly about her own experience. I remind noble Lords that all practices are already required to assign all their registered patients—including those aged 65 and over—a named, accountable GP. The GP must lead in ensuring that any GP services that they are contracted to provide, and that are necessary to meet the patient’s needs, are co-ordinated and delivered to that patient. Practices must take reasonable steps to accommodate the requests of patients to be assigned a particular GP and to see them for an appointment.

However, it is vital that practices retain clinical discretion to provide appointments, as is necessary and appropriate to meet the reasonable needs of patients—something that this amendment would remove. Through primary care networks and initiatives such as enhanced health in care homes and anticipatory care, we are supporting GP practices to improve continuity of care on the ground, including for older patients. We are committed to growing the general practice workforce and increasing access to appointments, in line with our manifesto commitments.

Government Contracts: Randox Laboratories

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Monday 21st February 2022

(5 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, at the heart of this Question is almost £500 million of public money, awarded in two public health contracts to Randox Laboratories without competition. My honourable friend asked this Question in the Commons and raised the dissonance in what has been said by the Government over the months since the issue was first raised. I have two questions for the Minister. Does he agree with the former Minister of State for Efficiency and Transformation, the noble Lord, Lord Agnew, that the Government were paying dramatically over the odds for Randox products? If so, can he explain why the Government then entered into a second, more lucrative, contract with the firm? Secondly, the chief operating officer for the Civil Service requested the restoration of competitive tendering by March 2021. Can the Minister set out how many further contracts have been issued after that date without tender and explain why the emergency procurement rules are still in place almost a year later, given that we are coming, as the Prime Minister just told the Commons “out of Covid”?

Lord Kamall Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Kamall) (Con)
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I start by thanking the noble Baroness for those questions. On her first point, we should remember the stage that the Government were at at the beginning of the crisis. People were dying every day and there were panics; they were not sure what was out there. Clearly, they were going out looking for suppliers for testing and other equipment. There were a number of approaches and different meetings, but one thing that has been quite clear is that all contracts were awarded according to the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. I have been reassured about this by officials. Authorities are permitted to procure goods, services and works via direct award, using Regulation 32 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, in exceptional circumstances, such as extreme urgency, without competing or advertising the requirement. I contend that the beginning of the Covid crisis was such an emergency, and that is one reason it was awarded without competition. There are clear procedures, we are committed to openness and transparency and details of the contracts are available online.

The decision on whether to procure a product from a supplier ultimately sits with departmental officials once the offer has cleared assurance steps. These include clinical acceptability and financial due diligence. I often get emails from people who have sat next to me somewhere who say, “I have this fantastic product”, but I have to reply to them and say, “I’m very sorry—I will copy officials into this but I can take no further part”.

I shall try to answer on the emergency procurement procedures, but I want to make sure I have the right note. Clearly, there are unforeseeable circumstances such as, for example, the rapid onset of omicron at the end of 2021. That also required UKHSA to act with extreme urgency. We used Regulation 32 in some cases at the end of last year to supply LFTs over the Christmas and new year period due to increased demand. The use of Regulation 32 was necessary because our DPS 2 procurement had reached its limit of extension and there was no time to run additional procurement. I am sure the noble Baroness and others will remember the end of last year, when people just could not get hold of testing equipment and we were trying to buy as much as we could on the world market.

Elective Care Recovery

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Monday 7th February 2022

(6 months ago)

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Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for repeating that Answer; I am very glad that he did not bash the Dispatch Box. I remind noble Lords that this Urgent Question is only 10 minutes, so let us have quick questions. The facts that 1.1 million people are waiting for scans and tests, and that the House of Commons Library says that half a million people with suspected cancer will wait longer than the two-week target, mean that it is a shame that the Government’s plan to deal with this, which was due to be published today, was pulled late last night. I will not speculate about whether this was an argument between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I really hope that the Government are not playing political games with our NHS while 6 million people wait for care. Will the Minister please tell us when the elective recovery plan is now due to be published? Not that long ago, the Prime Minister announced a new target that no one should wait more than two months for a diagnosis. Is that an example of lowering standards because this Government have failed to meet them, or is it a temporary measure?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for not speculating. All I can say about the elective recovery plan is that there have been active discussions between my department and the Treasury, and we expect to publish it very soon. On waiting lists, we are looking at how we can best target the backlog. We know that about 75% of patients do not require surgical treatment but require diagnostics. About 80% of patients requiring surgical treatment can be treated without an overnight stay in hospital. Around 20% of patients are waiting for either ophthalmology or orthopaedic services. We are quite clear about what the issue is, and we hope to publish the elective recovery plan very soon.

Health and Care Bill

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Friday 4th February 2022

(6 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Kamall Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Kamall) (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords who spoke in this debate. As a number of noble Lords have acknowledged, the case for reforming professional regulation has long been acknowledged, and stakeholders have long expressed concern that having nine separate professional regulatory bodies is confusing for the public. So our response in 2019 to the public consultation on regulatory reform reflected the desire for fewer regulatory bodies to deliver benefits to the professional regulation system.

In the 2020 consultation Regulating Healthcare Professionals, Protecting the Public, we committed to a review of professions that are currently regulated in the UK to consider whether statutory regulation remains appropriate for these professions. A consultation seeking views has been published, and it will close at the end of March this year. We also commissioned KPMG to carry out an independent review of the regulatory landscape, and it submitted its report at the end of last year. Officials and others are now poring over the findings to consider how best to respond. However, as with any use of Section 60, a public consultation will be carried out on any legislation made under these powers, and this would face scrutiny through the affirmative parliamentary process.

On the core criteria and principles, the professions protected in law must be the right ones, and the level of regulatory oversight must be appropriate and proportionate to the risks to the public. This is why we have sought a number of views on the criteria for determining whether statutory regulation is appropriate. As I said, we will wait for the outcomes.

These proposals have been developed in partnership with the devolved Administrations, and we will continue to work in partnership with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in taking forward any proposals for using these powers. This will also be subject to affirmative parliamentary approval.

Clause 142 provides additional powers that would widen the scope of Section 60 of the Health Act 1999 and enable the Privy Council to make additional changes through secondary legislation, as was acknowledged. Subject to consultation, we are aiming to enable the professional regulatory landscape to become more streamlined and work more flexibly. We think that this clause will make it easier to ensure that the professions protected in law are the right ones and that the level of regulatory oversight is proportionate to the risks to the public. The Government keep the professions subject to statutory regulation under review. As I said, as part of our work to reform healthcare professional regulation, we are continuing to consult.

As I said, any secondary legislation made using the new powers would be subject to Schedule 3 of the Health Act 1999, public consultation and the affirmative parliamentary procedure, thus ensuring that there is clear parliamentary scrutiny and transparency in relation to any changes made by secondary legislation in this area.

I also refer back to the questions on the social care register, which I discussed at length, both before and after the recent Oral Question. When I spoke to officials about why the register cannot be compulsory, they said that this was fair, given the demographics of some of the people in the skilled sector, who quite often have some suspicions of authority and a lack of trust—we have seen that with vaccine take-up, for example—and so there were concerns about making it compulsory at this stage. It is voluntary. They want to understand the range of qualifications across the sector. There are a number of different qualifications, and, in professionalising the sector better, they want to make sure that they are consistent at all the various levels in our education system—levels 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and upwards—to make sure that those qualifications are mutually accepted and recognised to make social care an attractive career and vocation.

For these reasons, I ask that Clause 142 stand part of the Bill.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister, but that was not a satisfactory response, I am afraid. The only word I heard that justified these extra powers being taken was “streamlining”, and, frankly, that is not good enough. It seems to me that the Secretary of State should not be taking powers to put forward the abolition of regulatory bodies on the basis of a public consultation and statutory regulation. The Minister must understand the difference between primary legislation and statutory instruments—that is the crux.

The reason for that is about the independence of the bodies we have, such as the General Medical Council and the General Dental Council. Those bodies need to feel that they cannot be subject to abolition at the whim of a Secretary of State. They have to be sure that they are protected by primary legislation in Parliament, and the Minister has not given me or the Committee an explanation as to why that should change. That independence is very important and precious.

On the issue of social care, I found the Minister’s explanation a bit patronising. It seems to me that, if we are to value social care and the people who work in it, we need to strive to give them the equality of regulation and supervision that the medical professions have. I realise that there is a journey and a process but, to me, that has to be the aim because it is the only way we can give that profession and the people who work in it the equality of regard that they deserve.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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When the Minister and I were discussing government amendments, on this issue I said: “If Baroness Deech is happy with this, then I am happy with this,” and indeed I am.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I can confirm that that conversation did take place. When we were dividing up the groups for today, I thought about offering this to someone else. One of my noble friends turned to me and said, “You’re going to be bashed around enough today, Syed, at least take something you’ll get a bit of credit for.” But I cannot take credit: that has to go to the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and the many noble Lords who have pressed this issue. The noble Baroness has also demonstrated the power of persistence and continuing the argument in a constructive way. On many of the other issues noble Lords believe in strongly—even if they feel that the Government may not be listening today, or that we are not sympathetic—I hope they will continue to be persistent.

On the general point that the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, made about reproductive health, I ask her to be more persistent. One of the great things about technology, not only digital but science and biology, is that often, it challenges the basis on which legislation was made. That is one thing we always have to be open to. Thanks to advances in technology, we are able to bring forward this amendment today. I will not say much more; I just hope that noble Lords agree that the time is right to change the legislation because of the progress made since the 2008 Act. I beg to move.

Personal Protective Equipment: Accounting

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Wednesday 2nd February 2022

(6 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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If I could correct the noble Baroness, the £8.7 billion does not refer to material that can no longer be used. As I said earlier, some of it can be repurposed or reused. On the so-called priority lanes, a number of government officials, Ministers’ offices, MPs, Member of the House of Lords, senior NHS staff, departmental staff and others were contacted. They then passed on these emails—I still get emails from people and pass them on to my department. All offers underwent a rigorous financial, commercial, legal and policy assessment. This was led by officials from various government departments as part of the PPE sale. The final decision on whether to enter into contracts sat with the appropriate accounting officer at the Department of Health and Social Care.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, I think it would be best if the Minister does not try to justify the VIP list, since he was not there. Consider the answer given by the former Minister for PPE procurement matters, the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, to a Parliamentary Question on 1 September 2021:

“As of 27 July 2021, the Department was engaged in commercial discussions (potentially leading to litigation) in respect to 40 PPE contracts with a combined value of £1.2 billion”.


Could the Minister please update the House on the situation with respect to that potential litigation and any attempt to recoup public money in the six months since the date of those official figures? If the Minister cannot provide the information today, could he write to me urgently, and ensure the information is placed in the Library?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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The Department of Health and Social Care’s anti-fraud unit has acted quickly to investigate allegations of fraud. Indeed, this question came up when I was on a call with the unit earlier today; I was told that it saved £157 million in prevention and recovery by identifying and preventing high-risk contracts in the early days of the pandemic. There is a single company that is a potential source of loss, where we paid it and then terminated the contract as a preventive measure. I commit to write to the noble Baroness with a fuller answer.

NHS Dentistry

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Monday 31st January 2022

(6 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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My noble friend raises a very important point. I am sure many people understand that, when we first became aware of Covid, one issue was that, by its very nature, dental care can generate aerosols from the mouth, which presented a specific risk for dental activity. Once more was understood about Covid and its airborne spread, practices reopened in 2020 and were asked to provide urgent dental care. In addition, we have opened 700 urgent dental care centres to help patients in urgent need. You can also call 111. We are also looking at the longer-term reform of dental practice, and are in conversation with the BDA and others.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, the target-based NHS system was already unfit for purpose before Covid-19 and is completely incompatible with providing safe and sustainable services to patients as we emerge from the pandemic. Does the Minister agree that dentistry and the state of people’s mouths is becoming a serious issue which shows health inequalities? We are heading towards people who cannot afford dentistry, and their children, having rotten teeth. This is what the Minister must acknowledge and build into the health Bill that is before the House now.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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We are very concerned about the potential inequalities. NHS England and NHS Improvement are very mindful of the risks of widening health inequalities. That is why, in their guidance, they specifically ask dentists to focus on providing urgent treatment for vulnerable groups and children and to delay planned care. NHS England has provided a flexible commissioning toolkit to local commissioners to help focus the available capacity on those who need it most and to reduce oral health inequalities.

Health and Care Bill

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey. Several months ago, some of his staff came to talk to me about the international healthcare part of the Bill. I said pretty much what the House decided two and a half years ago, which the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, described. I said that we would be very sceptical of it, because we had to cut a Bill in half all those years ago to take out the international bit and leave in the European and Swiss bit because of the powers that it gave the then Secretary of State to make agreements with persons—without specifying who they might be. I remember it very clearly. So when I saw that the noble Lord had put down clause stand part, I regretted that I had not put my name to it at that time, because I realised that we would have to address this aspect of the legislation. I will not object at all to the two minor amendments, as I realise that they are simply drafting amendments, but unless we can resolve this in some way which deals with the powers, I fear that we will return to this on Report, and we will certainly support a move to remove this clause from the Bill.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, and others for their comments and for their engagement with the Bill team on this issue. We currently have only limited healthcare agreements with countries outside Europe. They support people from the UK to access medically necessary healthcare but do not always provide comprehensive cover for those who need it. The powers included in this clause will enable the Government to implement comprehensive reciprocal healthcare agreements with countries around the world, not just with the EEA and Switzerland. This will allow the reimbursement of healthcare costs and the exchange of data to facilitate a reimbursement process. By implementing such agreements, we hope that we can better support people when they are abroad. We have listened to concerns previously expressed in the House, so the Bill will also remove Section 1 of the Healthcare (European Economic Area and Switzerland Arrangements) Act 2019, which provided a freestanding payment power and enabled the Secretary of State to make unilateral payments for healthcare in the EEA and Switzerland. This is no longer needed, following EU exit.

We are replacing this power with regulation-making powers which can provide for payments to be made in two circumstances: one, to implement healthcare agreements, and two, in countries where there is a healthcare agreement in place but the healthcare falls outside the scope of that agreement and the Secretary of State determines exceptional circumstances exist to justify payment. These are not the same powers that were originally drafted in the 2019 Bill. We have listened to Parliament and limited the scope of the powers to those necessary to deliver the policy intention. We have, for example, revoked the unilateral payment powers, which would enable the Secretary of State to make wide-ranging payments for healthcare outside healthcare agreements. The UK recently successfully concluded a trade and co-operation agreement with the EU, which includes comprehensive reciprocal arrangements. Therefore we see this as an appropriate time to tailor existing powers so they allow us best to support the healthcare needs of UK nationals across the world.

We hope that these legislative measures will allow us to strengthen existing agreements with non-EU countries or form other healthcare partnerships should we wish to in future. This includes looking to improve our healthcare co-operation with key international partners, the Crown dependencies and our overseas territories. We also want to offer more healthcare cover to UK residents travelling abroad for tourism or short-term business purposes, similar to the arrangements available to them when they visit EU countries.

I take this opportunity to confirm that there are no Henry VIII powers in this clause; they were removed during the passage of the Bill in 2019 and have not been put back. In response to the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, the Bill requires consultation with the devolved Administrations over the drafting of regulations made under the powers in this clause, and we are pleased that the devolved Administrations have all agreed to recommend that legislative consent is granted for these provisions.

In addition, the negotiation of international health agreements is reserved, and the devolved Administrations have a role to play in implementing those agreements. That is why we laid amendments in the House of Commons on Report of the Health and Care Bill. These amendments give the devolved Administrations power to make regulations in the areas of devolved competence within reciprocal healthcare.

As we are all too aware, healthcare co-operation between countries is a vital aspect of the global society we are a part of. Reciprocal healthcare provides safeguards and support for our most vulnerable as well as greater opportunities to travel, for work or leisure. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, for his suggestion that we have a meeting before Report for further conversation.

Health and Care Bill

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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I certainly cannot help my noble friend, but I live in hope that the Minister can. It smacks of a fix. The Minister might not be prepared to say on the Floor of the House what exactly the fix was between the various bits of NHS England and various bits and other parts of the machinery. I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, might know better than the rest of us what that fix was.

I will comment on my noble friend Lord Davies’s amendment. The problem with it is that, as the ICPs are proposed in the Bill at the moment, they will not be spending any money or commissioning services. It is also important that they include the various important parts of our local health delivery systems, including pharmacists, dentists, GPs, social enterprises and the voluntary sector. As I read it, this amendment would exclude hospices, for example—which would be a ridiculous thing to do. So my noble friend might want to rethink that amendment, because it does not necessarily serve the intended interests of the ICPs.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords, especially the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for the points they have raised. ICPs will play an important role in co-ordinating services, planning in a way that improves population health and reduces inequalities between different groups. It is right that we consider the best conditions for their success. I was asked where the idea for ICPs came from. It originated from the Local Government Association. We have had extensive consultation with both the LGA and NHS England. To be clear, councillors can sit on ICPs.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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Is that the fix: that councillors are not allowed to sit on the ICBs, where the money is spent, but they are allowed to sit on the ICPs? That is not acceptable to me.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I do not see it as a fix. The consultation was much wider than just NHS England. In November 2020, NHS England ran a public consultation on the structure of ICSs, including NHS staff, patients and members of the public.

Health and Care Bill

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, I am nearly convinced that I should have put my name to the opposition to Clause 39 standing part of the Bill.

We have had a very informed and interesting debate which comes to the heart of the balances of power that the Bill seeks to change. My noble friend Lord Hunt set out concerns over Clause 39, which gives general powers of direction to NHS England. Amendments 174A, 174B, 175A, 176A and 175 seek to mitigate the power and to put in safeguards. This is very much in tune with concerns expressed across the Committee, by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, and by the Constitution Committee. Our amendments stop short of that from the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, but theirs is a more elegant solution in many ways. However, the Minister will need to explain why some powers of direction are required, and we on these Benches will listen very carefully indeed.

This is all part of the balance between the responsibilities of the Secretary of State, especially to Parliament, and the powers the Secretary of State has to enable them to discharge their duties. If there is a clear and consistent solution to this, we have yet to hear it. In a way, we are repeating debates we have already had in Committee. The Bill has been severely criticised as a clear and disturbing illustration of disguised legislation, and it will need to be changed. We will need to move on to proper talks about how to do that.

On whether Clause 64 should stand part of the Bill, the issue is a different one. The 2012 Act introduced the formal notion of NHS bodies having autonomy, and since 2003, foundation trusts have had some degree of at least theoretical autonomy. But in the years of austerity a lot of that has gone, and all trusts of all kinds are simply struggling to manage day by day. It may have been the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, who observed that the difference between a trust and a foundation trust was a distinction without a difference. For some years, the process of managing foundation trusts has been the same as for trusts.

We have been hearing in our recent deliberations about local flexibilities. Our scepticism about this has been strong, because it appears—and this group of amendments addresses this—that any flexibility will be as great as NHS England permits. Let us not reject autonomy. Why remove the duties to promote autonomy? Why not replace them, for example, as the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, said, with a duty around subsidiarity and localism?

I will not repeat what was said by the Constitution Committee, but it was very critical of the powers that the Secretary of State seeks to take. Indeed, I raise a different issue: the fact that I thought NHS England was undertaking implementation of the Bill before it has finished its passage through Parliament. It is all part of the same pattern. Since we have an undertaking from the Minister to respond to that concern, we will look for an undertaking from him to provide an explanation and perhaps further discussion about why he wants autonomy removed from the Bill.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords for their amendments and for challenging the issues around the power of direction. We believe that we must have the right framework for national oversight of our health system. Following the merger of NHS England with Monitor and the Trust Development Authority, NHS England will be one of the largest arm’s-length bodies in government, responsible for over £130 billion of taxpayers’ money. Without this power, we would be expanding the functions and responsibilities of NHS England without ensuring that there are enhanced accountability measures in place.

Accountability must run from NHS England to Ministers, from Ministers to Parliament, and from Parliament to the public. This is what the power of direction supports. Indeed, a number of politicians from different sides agree that if you walked out into Parliament Square and asked people who is responsible, they would expect us to have answers. Therefore, we want to make sure there is the appropriate power of responsibility.

I also want to give reassurances that we expect the situations where the Government issue directions to NHS England to be rare. Where it does happen, Ministers will of course ensure that the direction is clear, appropriate and has suitable timeframes. It is paramount that this power can be deployed quickly when required, and limiting it to specific instances, or prescribing a time limit as to its efficacy, would undermine the intent of these provisions.

That said, we agree it would be inappropriate to use this power to intervene in clinical decisions, and we have specifically exempted this in the Bill. For example, we have made sure that a direction cannot be given in relation to drugs, medicines or—interestingly, given our previous discussions—on treatments that NICE has not recommended or issued guidance on. The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, rightly questioned the draft guidance that NHS England has given—we are trying to find a copy of that. However, we recognise the unique role the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care plays in the system. The Secretary of State could use the powers to request to see the guidance developed by NHS England before it is published, to ensure that NHS England is working effectively with other parts of the system, such as local authorities, given the concerns that both the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, raised.

On Amendments 176A and 174A, we have already included a number of exemptions to the power of direction in the Bill to ensure the Secretary of State is not able to intervene in day-to-day operational matters. There is also no intention that the power will be used to direct NHS England on procurement matters. Any decision to exercise the power will be subject to and guided by general public law principles and general statutory duties. This means, for example, that Ministers will have to use regulations where they exist, as they do for procurement, and that the Secretary of State cannot direct NHS England to breach procurement regulations, since this would be unlawful.

In relation to allocations to ICBs, NHS England uses a formula to allocate NHS resources to different parts of the country based on long-standing principles of equal opportunity of access for equal needs and informed by the independent Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation. There is no intention to use the power to interfere in this process.

In relation to local organisations, I make the point that the Bill will provide more practical autonomy at a local level by strengthening local leadership and empowering local organisations to make decisions about their population, while also allowing for national accountability. This is the approach we want to take with this power: directing NHS England only on the functions it holds in respect of local bodies, to provide necessary support and assistance to them, especially if they are failing. It is also vital that a power of this nature is accompanied with appropriate safeguards and transparency requirements.

On Amendment 174B, which relates to public interest, the clause already ensures that all directions must be made in the public interest.

On Amendment 175A, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has called for directions to be laid in Parliament. It is already the case that any direction issued must be made in writing and will have to be published. This will allow Parliament to hold Ministers to account for use of this power.

On Amendment 175, Ministers already work in partnership with NHS England, and any direction made would come after close working and considered discussion. NHS England will continue to make the vast majority of its decisions without direction, consulting the Government as it needs to. We believe that this power provides additional transparency by ensuring that where Ministers direct NHS England, it is clear, published and available for scrutiny by all. Any direction will come after a considered discussion with NHS England and advice, including on the impact and deliverability of such a direction. Ministers will of course consider, with NHS England and others, that the priorities being set are the right ones and whether they are affordable. However, it is important that we do not put in place too bureaucratic a structure that would bind Ministers’ hands when decisions have to be made quickly.

I end by addressing the questions put forward by my noble friend Lord Lansley and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, about Clauses 39 and 64 being removed from the Bill. Clause 39 is part of our ambition to put increased accountability for the Secretary of State at the heart of these proposals while committing to the NHS’s clinical and day-to-day operational independence. We reiterate that the power will add to the existing ways that the Secretary of State and NHS England work together. The mandate to NHS England, which has been an established means of providing direction since 2013, will continue to be the main place for strategic direction-setting.

Health and Care Bill

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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I think the Minister is probably getting the message by now. I shall speak to my Clause 40 stand part debate and the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady Merron. Somebody said earlier that we can be sure that the proposals to allow greater powers for the Secretary of State to intervene in reconfigurations is not something that the NHS asked for. That is almost certainly true.

I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, on her great coalition- building; she is very good at building coalitions in support of the things that she cares about, and she has definitely managed to do that with this group of amendments.

Noble Lords have pointed out that, at the moment, we have a system which works. It may be slow, and it is absolutely true that it has processes which take too long, but there are elements of public and patient involvement through consultations. The changes made in 2012 under the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, brought in four tests and some rigour of external independent evaluation. The core of that process still exists. As a non-executive member of the board of the Whittington, I can say that this is exactly the kind of thing that we have been involved in in our own hospital.

The consultations might be improved, but they will not be improved at all by this proposal. In fact, I think that this clause is very odd indeed. It is a bad idea, and it adds nothing to the core of this Bill and its central aim, which is to grow place-based independent and innovative healthcare, and it probably needs to go.

Lord Kamall Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Kamall) (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords and noble Baronesses for their contributions. I would be pretty blind or deaf not to understand the level of concern across the Committee. However, if noble Lords will bear with me, I shall try to set out some justifications. I preface my remarks once again by saying that I strongly hear the views of the Committee, and I welcome the fact that previous Ministers and Secretaries of State are warning us not to fall victim to this, as it were.

I start by explaining some of the justifications. It may be helpful to start with some of the observations. The public expect Ministers to be accountable for the health service, which includes service change. We see the new intervention powers enabling the Secretary of State to act as a scrutineer and decision-maker for reconfigurations, to intervene when, for example, they can see a critical benefit or cost to taking one or other course of action, or to take action where there is a significant cause for public concern. Having said that, we accept that public concern could well be a political one, so we understand the concerns expressed by noble Lords.

We expect this power to be used infrequently and, when it is used, it will be done proportionately and transparently. All decisions made using the new reconfiguration call-in power in the Bill must be published, which will ensure transparency and proper scrutiny. The new call-in power for reconfigurations will allow the Secretary of State better to support effective change and respond to stakeholder concerns, including from the public health oversight and scrutiny committees and parliamentarians in a more timely way.

I turn to Amendment 183. Given the role of the Secretary of State, it is proportionate to ask him or her to ask local commissioners to consider service change where there is concern. Once again, we do not expect this power to be used frequently, and all service changes, regardless of whether a Secretary of State has been a catalyst, will still be required to go through due process and where appropriate local consultation. Before any proposal was agreed, the planning and assurance for a proposal would still have to include strong public and patient engagement, consistency with a current and prospective need for patient choice, a clear clinical evidence base and support from commissioners.

I turn to a couple of points from my noble friend Lady Cumberlege and the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, who said that the powers were unnecessary, undesirable and unworkable. To look at the necessity of the power, the current system can lead to referrals coming very late to the Secretary of State, and the power will allow the Secretary of State to intervene earlier to avoid that. For example, my noble friend Lady Cumberlege referred to the Kent and Medway stroke services reconfiguration proposal. One reason why it was lengthy was the need to review the right options for the system. We are hoping that it goes something like this—that you could either knock heads together or, as someone put it more starkly, have a sword of Damocles over them to come to a decision more quickly. But once again we understand the concerns.

I turn to Amendment 180. It is vital that all local views, including that of the health overview and scrutiny committees, are represented in the reconfiguration. The new power in the Bill will not replace the important local scrutiny and engagement that plays such an important role in service change decisions, and a duty for those locally responsible for service change proposals to consult local authorities will remain. It is right that for commissioners and providers who are responsible for planning, assuring and delivering reconfigurations the duty to consult HOSCs and other local stakeholders continues. We are also introducing a duty for NHS England, integrated care boards, NHS trusts and foundation trusts to provide information and other assistance required for the Secretary of State to carry out functions. That will allow the Secretary of State to take into account local views. We expect the Independent Reconfiguration Panel to consider the views and carry on the way it works.

On Amendment 181, we recognise the importance of timely decision-making—

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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Is the Minister saying that the Government and his department do not trust NHS England to fulfil this function any longer?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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No, we are saying that, where there is an issue and it is taking a long time, this measure allows the Secretary of State to come in in a more timely manner rather than waiting for a late referral.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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Does the Minister think that will save time?

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Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, it is very gratifying that so many noble Lords have decided to come in to take part in a debate about NHS finances tonight; I am very grateful for that.

I shall speak briefly to Amendments 199, 200 and 202A in my name. Amendment 199 provides that the Secretary of State must set out rules for determining the price to be paid for NHS services. Amendment 200 ensures that the key policy documents covering NHS services are approved by the Secretary of State. Amendment 202A provides that the rules must be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

I am very pleased that the complexity of NHS funding was not mentioned in great detail tonight, but there has been speculation about how funding may work and how the various financial responsibilities in and across ICSs may develop. What we think we know is that complex funding approaches, such as payment by results, will become less important. In Clause 70 and the associated Schedule 10, however, the Bill is wonderfully uninformative. It just says, “Out with the old”—the national tariff—“and in with the new”, the NHS payment scheme. I am again with the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, in saying that these questions need to be answered, because they will affect the regulations, procurement rules and so on.

The payment scheme—actually, I am not going to talk about the history of the NHS payment scheme at this time of night, but, unless the Minister can justify it and answer the questions posed by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, this part of the Bill should be quietly dropped. We seem to have something that works, so why replace it with something that we do not know very much about?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness and echo her gratitude to all the noble Lords who have turned up for this group of amendments.

Before I turn to specific amendments, it may be helpful to make a few general points about the new payment scheme and explain why this clause should stand part of the Bill. For many years, the national tariff improved access to services and drove up quality across the NHS. The new scheme will build on that success. NHS England will continue to make rules determining the price paid to a provider, by a commissioner, for healthcare services for the NHS, or for public health services commissioned on behalf of the Secretary of State. Also, expanding the powers to enable NHS England to set prices for public health services, such as maternity screening, will allow for seamless funding streams for different care episodes.

However, we need to update the NHS pricing systems to reflect the move towards a more integrated system focused on prevention, joint working and more care delivered in the community. This will support a move from a “payment by activity” approach, towards an approach that promotes integration and early intervention, while discouraging perverse incentives for patients to be treated in acute settings. It will allow flexibility over the current pricing scheme, and allow rules to set prices, formulas and factors that must be considered when determining the prices paid. I assure noble Lords that, when developing the scheme, NHS England will continue to consult any persons that it considers relevant, which will include ICBs, NHS trusts and foundation trusts, as well as trade unions and representative groups. I share the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Davies, about the valuable role that trade unions play in a free society.

I turn briefly to the points made by my noble friend Lord Lansley. On regional variation, the NHS payment scheme will encourage commissioners and providers within an integrated board area to work together to agree prices that are in line with the rules set out in the scheme. To date, only one provider has applied successfully for local modification, and closer working within ICBs should remove the need for disputes. On paying different providers differently, there may be scenarios where it is appropriate to pay non-NHS providers different prices from those paid to NHS providers, to take into account differences, different starting costs or a different range of services provided. There may also be cases where the financial regimes of different providers make it appropriate to set different prices or pricing rules. When setting any prices, NHS England will aim to ensure that prices paid represent a fair level of pay for the providers of those services, as well as fair pay between providers of similar services. We will not introduce competition on price rather than quality. We hope that these changes will increase the flexibility and reduce transactional bureaucracy at the ICP level.

I must disagree with the proposal in Amendment 199. While the Secretary of State will remain responsible for setting out overall funding for NHS England, NHS England, alongside Monitor, has set the rules successfully since 2013. I cannot see the benefit of this duty being transferred to the Secretary of State, beyond separating it further from those making operational decisions in the system. Following that logic, we must also reject Amendment 202A. However, I assure noble Lords that the payment scheme will be published in the usual way, and your Lordships will of course be able to table Questions, secure debates, hold us accountable and ensure that the mechanism is scrutinised.

I turn to Amendments 201B and 201C. As part of the broad consultation duties, we expect NHS England to work closely with trade unions and staff representative bodies, such as the Social Partnership Forum, NHS Providers, the Healthcare Financial Management Association and all the royal colleges, when developing the national tariff.

On Amendment 200, I assure your Lordships that the NHS payment scheme will be published by NHS England following consultation. The Secretary of State will also have the general power to require NHS England to share the NHS payment scheme before publication, not to publish a payment scheme without approval, and to share the contents of the scheme should that be necessary.

On Amendment 201A, in setting the rules for the payment scheme, NHS England will of course want commissioners to consider staff pay, pensions and terms and conditions. NHS England will continue to take account of cost growth arising from uplifts to Agenda for Change. New Section 114C makes it clear that, before publishing the payment scheme, NHS England must consult any person that it thinks appropriate. Again, in practice we expect this to include representative bodies and trade unions. NHS England must also provide an impact assessment of the proposed scheme.

I hope I can reassure noble Lords that the department and NHS England remain committed to Agenda for Change. Independent providers will remain free to develop and adopt the terms and conditions of employment, including pay, that best help them attract and keep the staff they need. However, we expect that good employers would set wage rates that reflected the skills of their staff.

On Amendment 202, it is right that the commissioners and providers of NHS services should be able to make representations and, if they feel it necessary, object to pricing mechanisms set by NHS England in the payment scheme. That is why we have retained the duties to consult commissioners and providers. We have also retained the ability for ICBs and providers to make representations and to formally object in response to consultations on the NHS payment scheme, as they can with the national tariff.

The current prescribed thresholds are set by the National Health Service (Licensing and Pricing) (Amendment) Regulations 2015, and the current objection thresholds since 2015 have been set at 66%. My department consulted on these thresholds in 2015 and it remains the Government’s view that they are proportionate, preventing the delay of future payment scheme publications and giving the NHS the certainty that it needs to plan for future financial years.

If I have not answered all the questions from my noble friend Lord Lansley and others, I ask noble Lords to remind me and I will write to them. This has been a very important discussion—as we can see by the attendance—and I hope I have given enough reassurance to noble Lords for them not to move their amendments and have explained why the clause should stand part of the Bill.

Health and Care Bill

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall
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That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, before we formally move into Committee on the Health and Care Bill, I will raise a matter of general importance about the parliamentary process upon which we are embarked and seek guidance from the Government about a serious matter which is of immediate concern in the parliamentary process we are currently undertaking. I have no wish to delay proceedings so I will get to the point.

In August, the Government and NHS England issued a Readiness to Operate Statement guidance and checklist to all the relevant parts of the NHS concerning planning for the forthcoming legislation. On 19 January this was updated concerning the ICB establishment timeline, regarding the implementation date for the legislation moving from April to July. The words “subject to parliamentary process” may have been included in the guidance but the actions which flow from the NHS England guidance are contrary to those words. For example, it seems that the latest advice from the Government and NHS England confirms deadlines for appointments of leaders, chairs and boards, many of whom have been appointed, possibly involving the spending of public funds, long before the Bill has completed its passage through Parliament. Indeed, there are many other matters which are still subject to parliamentary process. This is pre-emption of parliamentary process.

The issues in the guidance are at the forefront of the Committee’s deliberations and it is possible that much may have changed before the Bill receives Royal Assent. Our scrutiny in your Lordships’ House is important, not least because both the Constitution Committee and the DPRRC have been highly critical of the Bill and the department. They have stressed the importance of the Bill receiving sufficient scrutiny, since it did not have pre-legislative scrutiny and is significant “disguised legislation”, including more than 60 delegated powers and directions which have no parliamentary process at all.

Noble Lords will be familiar with the rules governing preparation for the enactment of legislation. After Second Reading of a Bill, some work may be undertaken, but guidance from Her Majesty’s Treasury in May 2021 is very clear what actions can and cannot be taken. Box A2, point 4C, refers to:

“Expenditure which may not normally be incurred before royal assent.”


First, there is,

“significant work associated with preparing for or implementing the new task enabled by a Bill, eg renting offices, hiring expert consultants or designing or purchasing significant IT equipment”.

Secondly, there is,

“recruitment of chief executives and board members of a new public sector organisation”.

Thirdly, there is,

“recruitment of staff for a new public sector organisation”.

We understand that NHS England was advised by others not to issue this guidance. Will the Government confirm that: first, the legitimate role of this House in the scrutiny of legislation should be made clear to NHS England; secondly, the current guidance will be withdrawn and it will be made clear to NHS England that further action must await the completion of the Bill and Royal Assent; thirdly, it will be made clear that aspects of the changes within scope of the Bill can and may well be amended; fourthly, that adequate time will be allowed for proper scrutiny of the Bill? I shall be referring the guidance to the two said committees. If the Minister is unable to provide a response today, please can he confirm that he will respond in writing by the end of the week; otherwise, we will need to raise this again in your Lordships’ House?

Lord Kamall Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Kamall) (Con)
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I start by thanking the noble Baroness for giving me advance notice of her intervention today. It clearly reflects the mood and concerns of the House that we heard last week. We recognise the strength of the House’s feeling on this matter. I have spoken to my department, and it told me that it is meeting NHS England this week to discuss this matter, and I will update the House accordingly. On the request that the noble Baroness made, I commit to write to her.

Health and Care Bill

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, this group is in two parts. The first part consists of the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Hunt. I need to declare an interest as a patron and the founding chair of Social Enterprise UK, and also as an associate of E3M, for public sector social enterprise leaders, particularly in the healthcare sector, so I have been living with this. Indeed, I must declare an interest as the Minister who helped take through the right to request in the NHS for our staff. I am very committed to these amendments, and to the need for social enterprises to continue to innovate and deliver in our health and social care system, which they do at the moment. There is a report due out very soon from the group chaired by the noble Earl, Lord Devon, on Covid and social enterprise; the way that social enterprises have delivered during Covid is stunning.

I turn to the amendments in the second part of this group, many of which have my name on them. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, and I find ourselves in broadly the same place: it is a mess. Our first thought was, “Why is this clause here?”, because it does both the things that my former noble friend Lord Warner—I still regard him as a friend—said. This clause does not tell us what is going to happen but it makes us extremely suspicious about what might happen. My amendments—and also, I think, the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey—are about that suspicion. It is quite right that the regulatory committee also said that we needed to pay attention to this, because it gives the Secretary of State very wide powers and it does not tell us what the Secretary of State will do with them.

I have quite a long speaking note, but I do not intend to go into the detail now. I simply say to the Minister that if, by the next stage of the Bill, we have not resolved the issues behind this clause, the Government may find themselves struggling to get it, as it stands, through your Lordships’ House.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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My Lords, again, I have heard the excellent contributions that have been made, really holding the Government to account on a number of these amendments.

I begin with Amendment 93, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. I assure him that social value is a very important matter for the Government. I know that this importance is echoed across the NHS, as the country’s largest employer and public service, and that we see the value of the excellent services and innovation that social enterprises, independent providers and charities bring to health and care—indeed, not just to health and care but to the wider economy. However, we do not think that this is an appropriate duty to put on NHS commissioners, or an appropriate addition to the triple aim.

We have been discussing the triple aim and other issues around how that ends up. We fundamentally believe that the focus of NHS commissioning decisions should be on offering the best possible treatments and services based on quality, rather than any decision being based on the type of provider, but, again, while recognising the diversity of non-clinical providers, especially social enterprises, voluntary organisations and charities. The duty of the triple aim is intended to be shared across the NHS. The aims represent a core shared vision of what the NHS should offer, and are intended to align NHS bodies around a common set of objectives and support a shift towards integrated systems. In this context we would not want to split the duty by adding a section relevant to commissioners, NHS England and ICBs, but not to trusts and foundation trusts.

On Amendment 211, in its long-term plan the NHS committed to reducing health inequalities and supporting wider social goals. Again, this refers back to previous debates on how we make sure that we really capture the essence of tackling inequalities in the Bill. We recognise that NHS organisations can contribute to social and economic development, and aim to reduce the impact of social determinants of health and reduce heath inequalities. It is with this in mind that social value, alongside sustainability, has been proposed as one of the key criteria which will be used for decision-making under the provider selection regime.

We believe that this amendment, at this stage, is not necessary, as alongside the role of social value as a key decision-making criterion, NHS England and NHS Improvement will produce guidance on applying net zero and social value in healthcare procurement, which includes taking account of social value in the award of central contracts.

The Cabinet Office social value model has been applied to procurement decisions taken by NHS England and NHS Improvement since 1 April 2021 and will be extended to the whole NHS system from 1 April 2022. Adopting the Cabinet Office social value model across the NHS complements strategic initiatives and policy within the NHS.

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Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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Will the consultation on outsourcing be published?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I assume it will be but, as I am about to say on a number of other issues, there is clearly a lot to take back to the department, not only tonight but on the whole Bill. I pledge to take that back to the department.

Where there is only one possible provider or where the incumbent is delivering well, it is intended that the regime will enable commissioners to continue contracts in an efficient way. However, if a trust or foundation trust currently holds a contract or did hold a contract, it should not be assumed that it is or was always with the most suitable provider. It is the view of the Government and the NHS that patients should be able to access services based on quality and value, delivering the best possible outcome, rather than basing the decision on what type of provider they are.

Amendment 208 would require a competitive tender for contracts with an annual value of over £5 million. While we recognise the role of competitive tender—and expect that, in many cases, this may be the appropriate route—the NHS asked the Government for greater flexibility in tendering contracts. It is for local commissioners to select the most appropriate provider for a service and to do so in a robust way. We agree with the importance of open, transparent and robust decision-making. Regulations and statutory guidance made under the provision in Clause 70 will set out rules to ensure transparency and scrutiny of decisions to award healthcare contracts. Decision-makers will also need to adhere to any relevant existing duties, act with transparency and appropriately manage conflicts of interest. This and other aspects of the regime will provide sufficient safeguards to fulfil the important need for fairness when making decisions about the arrangement of services.

On Amendment 209, the Government’s position on trade agreements is clear. We have been unequivocal that the procurement of NHS healthcare services is off the table in our future trade negotiations. This is a fundamental principle of the UK’s international trade policy. In fact, it dates back to the days when we were a member of the European Union; this issue came up a number of times. I remember working in the European Parliament with colleagues from the Labour Party and elsewhere to ensure that this was part of our agreements. Therefore, we do not consider the noble Baroness’s amendment necessary. My department has worked with the Department for International Trade to ensure robust protections for public services. For example, in the recent UK-Australia trade agreement, it was clearly stated that the procurement of health services is not included in the scope of the agreement’s services procurement coverage. We will ensure that our right to choose how we deliver public services is protected in future trade agreements.

Amendment 212 would mean that the provisions of Clause 70 expired three years after the day on which they commenced. In 2019, the NHS provided recommendations to the Government and Parliament for this NHS Bill. These recommendations told us that

“there is strong public and NHS staff support for scrapping Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and for removing the commissioning of NHS healthcare services from the jurisdiction of the Public Contract Regulations 2015.”

The recommendations also voiced support for the removal of the presumption of automatic tendering of these services. Our intention is that, through this clause and the new procurement regulations to be made under it, we will deliver what the NHS has asked for: new rules for arranging services that work for the NHS, and, most importantly, for patients.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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I am very sorry—I know it is late—but, frankly, these are not rules that will serve the locality. At the moment it looks as if these rules will be set by the Secretary of State and will serve the Secretary of State. That is what the Bill says at the moment; those are the powers that this clause takes.

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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The noble Lord raises a concern that I have heard a number of times: that we should be careful about saying “This is what the NHS wanted”—that the focus has to be about patients. We clearly take the view that this should be patient-centred and patient-focused. Indeed, I have had a number of conversations with many noble Lords about how we make sure that it is patient-focused. We understand, however, that concerns have been raised that Clause 70 may in part be a temporary measure, to be replaced or significantly edited by the Cabinet Office procurement Bill to follow. This is not and never has been our intention, but I understand the concern and recognise that there is value to aligning processes when such alignment is in the wider system interest. We continue to engage with the Cabinet Office on its proposals.

Amendment 213 would make regulations under Clause 70 subject to the super-affirmative procedure. I appreciate the intention behind this amendment. However, we do not feel at the moment that the super-affirmative procedure is necessary. As set out in our delegated powers memorandum, the powers created by Clause 70 are inserted into the NHS Act 2006, in line with the vast majority of regulation-making powers under that Act.

We know that there is significant parliamentary interest around the rules determining how healthcare services are arranged, so it is vital that we strike the right balance between democratic scrutiny and operational flexibility. The negative procedure provides that balance and ensures transparency and scrutiny. We will continue to engage widely on the proposals for the regulations to be made under these powers, to ensure that they will deliver—

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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I am sure that the noble Lord knows that there is actually no parliamentary scrutiny with the negative procedure—none.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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May I explain about the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, on Clause 70—

Health and Care Bill

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Thursday 20th January 2022

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Kamall Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Kamall) (Con)
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My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate, covering issues around prevention, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, and talking about what we mean by integration and how we make sure that it is more than just a word. I remind noble Lords that we have a forthcoming paper on integration as part of the overall package of the Bill, and a social care paper as well.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, mentioned culture and attitude. I think it is very important to recognise that you can change structures and have legislation but you have to make sure that the culture and attitude are right across the system. I say to noble Lords that we fully sympathise with the intentions and I hope I can offer some reassurance.

In my departmental job as Minister for Technology, Innovation and Life Sciences, I feel very strongly that one way to drive integration is through better use of data across the system. Even before we look at integrating with social care, the NHS as it is at the moment is not sharing data well across the system. There are still a number of inefficiencies. I really believe in the digital transformation agenda and will give a quick example of that.

Just before Christmas, at a time when the NHS was under extreme pressure, I had my annual check-up in two parts. One part was an ECG at a local community centre; the second was supposed to be a telephone conversation with a consultant a week later. When the phone call came from the consultant, he started talking and I had to stop him. I said, “Have you seen my ECG results?” and he said, “No. What ECG? When was that?” I said, “This is all part of the same appointment. Can I now give you the date and time when I had it so you can look at the results?” “Don’t worry about that,” he said, “we’ll just have to make a new appointment”.

This was at a time when the NHS was under extreme pressure, as it is every winter. That shows the challenge. Even though we have been talking about the integration of health services since 1948, we still have these problems. That is why I believe so strongly in the digitisation and data-sharing challenge. It is not just because I am a geek and love technology; it really can make a difference, save money and lives and mean a more effective service all around.

I start by addressing Amendment 50 on fracture liaison services. Fracture liaison services and fragility fracture prevention are recognised by NHS England as critical to both healthy ageing and elective recovery. Within its high-impact restoration strategy, NHS England recommends that all systems optimise the secondary prevention of fragility fractures. NHS England is working closely with stakeholders to support the implementation of secondary fracture prevention services where they do not exist already and to support sustainability and quality improvement where services exist. Once again, this will rely on good data being shared across the system.

There are already duties in the Bill to require ICBs to commission such services. As fracture liaison services aim to identify people at risk and therefore prevent future fractures, their provision would already be covered in Clause 16 under new Section 3(1)(h), which places a duty on ICBs to commission such services or facilities for prevention, care and aftercare as the ICB considers appropriate. As I hope noble Lords will agree, it would be inappropriate to be overly specific in setting out the services to be commissioned as part of the new Section 3 that would be inserted by Clause 16, given the wide range of services the NHS needs to commission. However, I hope I can give assurances to noble Lords that NHS England will continue to monitor this and ensure that ICBs are commissioning effective fracture services. I hope we continue to drive this data being shared appropriately.

I turn to Amendment 51A. It makes sense that people should be able to receive emergency treatment wherever they are, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, alluded to. We believe that is already the case. Once again, data would make a huge difference. If I am in Newcastle and fall off my bike and am taken to hospital, and if I have an existing condition, would it not be great if the clinicians when they triage me could know about it? I have asked my local GP practice to share my data on the app and it still has not done it. The mechanisms are there but the culture and attitudes are a huge challenge for whichever Government are in power.

The Bill confers a power on NHS England to publish rules that determine the people for whom each ICB is responsible. Those rules must make sure that everyone registered in the area, or everyone who may have need of services, is looked after. The Secretary of State may make regulations expanding that responsibility or creating exceptions where necessary. This was the case with existing CCGs and will continue under the ICBs. I hope I can reassure your Lordships that these regulations will be replaced to ensure continuity in this between CCGs and ICBs,

I now turn to the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, and his amendment. I also thank him for sharing his wisdom and his experience of family hubs. It is incredibly important. We agree with the spirit behind Amendment 57. We fully agree that, generally speaking, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, prevention is better than cure. One of the things that I have been reassured by in my early conversations in my role as a Minister for Health is the number of people in meetings who have said that they want to move towards a focus on prevention. That is not avoiding cure. We have to tackle cure, of course, but we can avoid a lot of that and save resources and time and promote better health and healthy living if we focus on prevention.

There are also duties in relation to the improvement of services for the prevention of illnesses as well as a duty to obtain appropriate advice, which expressly includes a requirement to seek advice from people with expertise in the prevention of illness. The NHS is already working hard to prevent ill health but, once again, we have to make sure that, in this prevention, people are all talking to each other, we are learning from best practice, and ICBs and trusts are learning from each other. As a number of noble Lords have made clear in their contributions in Committee, the issue is wider and social prescribing, for example, and other issues are really important.

Commissioners have also developed good practice, including funding alcohol care teams and tobacco treatment teams in hospitals, and expanding the diabetes prevention programme. This was re-emphasised in the NHS Long Term Plan, which contained commitments for the NHS to focus on major causes of ill health such as smoking, poor diet, high blood pressure, obesity and alcohol and drug use.

I remind noble Lords that prevention is not simply also a matter for ICBs. It involves local authorities and sometimes law enforcement authorities. It is a multiagency approach, led by local authorities but with ICBs, the NHS and other agencies playing their role.

I acknowledge the point that my noble friend made about cannabis and young people and I will write in more detail about that rather than take up time now. But we also have to look at such issues in the round. For example, in the United States Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute wrote that a lot of drug enforcement or anti-drug policy disproportionately affects young black men who then get thrown into the criminal justice system. How do we tackle that? One of the interesting conversations I have had with the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, was about his experience as borough commander in south London, an area that my noble friend mentioned. He gave the example that young black men in possession of drugs were far more likely to be picked up than a white middle-class male or female.

We have to make sure that we look at this as a whole. When we look at the tackling inequalities strand that we all feel so strongly about, we have to make sure we get the right balance. It is, of course, very difficult on a case-by-case basis but we have to be aware of unintended consequences.

On the integration duty, we are sympathetic to the intent behind the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, and support greater integration between health and social care. We hope that we can make sure that stakeholders work together and that, with all the papers, we are able to push through this integration.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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I hesitate to take the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, away from her, but she is talking about putting a duty for this integration in the Bill. That is the way forward. Assurance is not the point here. I think we have gone past the point of needing assurance. We have been assured about this for years. This is about the duty.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I was just about to come to duty, so I thank the noble Baroness for hurrying me along.

Health and Care Bill

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I will speak to the amendments to Clause 14, which is a very important clause. There is absolutely no doubt about that, and the Minister can be in no doubt that that is exactly how we see it. It was touch and go whether we would have a clause stand part debate on this, and I am not sure that we were right not to do so, because this debate, particularly my noble friend Lord Hunt’s comments, has highlighted some serious problems.

My noble friend Lady Pitkeathley is quite right that the arrangements that we are seeking to put into statute, which have grown up over the last few years to allow areas to collaborate, were the right thing to do. In my area of the world, I have no doubt that it was important that the boroughs collaborated together, particularly in their relationship with and commissioning of services from the very big providers.

The question in Clause 14 is: what is going on with the arrangements that the Government are putting into statute? I am very pleased to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and to speak to Amendments 23 and 44 in my name. Amendment 23 addresses the vexed issue of boundaries for an ICB. In this Bill we are dealing with geography, whereas the 2012 Act dealt with GP lists. The area of an ICB is defined in terms of tier 1 local authorities.

Concerns have been expressed, because the NHS is often a bit clueless and sometimes very defensive about local government, its boundaries and its powers. Maybe the Minister will tell me I am wrong, but I suspect that one of the reasons why elected members have been precluded from the boards is that the NHS does not feel comfortable with the direct democratic accountability at that level. That is a great shame. I think it is wrong; accountability is extremely important.

How can we have an integrated service when social care is provided by local government, which is democratically accountable, and we want to integrate that with the NHS at a local level in an area to provide the best service that we can for that population and those patients? The almost offensive way of constructing a board that does not allow elected representatives is not acceptable.

My quite modest amendment seeks to change that situation for the future. There were exchanges in the Commons about this, and there have been meetings with disgruntled authorities that seem to have ended without agreement. We may need to take a step back and learn some of the lessons, perhaps from Scotland and Wales where more logical boundaries have been applied for their health boards.

We may learn a bit more about plans for integrated commissioning at this level when we get the promised but overdue White Paper on integration. It is possible that it will set up a third set of geographies, and who knows how that will line up? This seems to be the wrong way around. Our amendments at least elevate the need to consult with local authorities over boundaries to start off with. That is perhaps a pious hope, but we can agree that any future changes can be made only if the local authorities agree.

Amendment 159 arises out of lengthy discussions elsewhere. In the twin-striker model for ICS, we have the ICBs and the ICPs. We know almost nothing about ICPs; all that is said is that it is part of the “flexibility” and so should be valued. Referring back to my previous remarks, I just hope that local authorities will be genuinely involved in the ongoing discussions about ICPs, how they are set up and their governance. What we do know is that the ICPs will own the analysis of needs and the strategy that follows from that. What, therefore, is the role of local health and well-being boards?

There are echoes of 2012 here, as, during the consideration of the 2012 Bill, amendments were advanced on the same issue. In the 2012 version, it was the health and well-being boards that did the strategy and the CCGs that did the commissioning, at least of health. Nobody ever properly addressed how social care would be commissioned in any integrated way in a wider strategy. It was proposed in 2012 that the health and well-being boards had to approve the plans of the CCGs, and that was the glue that would hold the whole thing together. We know that that has not worked. It has sometimes worked on paper, but it is not the thing that has driven the work of the CCGs.

The answer so far for 2022 is that everyone will play nicely and it will all be resolved. I do not think that can possibly be the case when there is such a serious imbalance. Our Amendment 159 acknowledges that there just might be a dispute over whether some decision or plan of an ICB was genuinely aligned to the strategy that it was supposed to be following, so a process for resolution is needed.

I am not sure whether Amendment 44 sits easily in this group, but it is a matter on which assurance is needed. When foundation trusts came into being, they were rather bravely given the power to set their own terms and conditions for staff. One of them might have tried it, and it was not a great success. In general, despite whatever powers exist, almost every part of the NHS follows the Agenda for Change, the collective agreement that took 10 years to agree but which has stood the tests of time.

Now, as with CCGs, we have the power of ICBs to set their own terms and conditions. They are probably unlikely to do so, as it takes an enormous amount of work and the risks that it brings are probably not worth the effort. Without doubt, some staff are worried that they just might be the ones picked on for special treatment. The Minister will no doubt say that the ICBs need the flexibility, but surely, given the pandemic and everything else that faces the NHS, it would be much better to give staff certainty and confidence they will be treated properly.

We agree with the sentiments of Amendments 22 and 24, which try to ensure that agreement on ICB constitutions will be done promptly. We agree with the sentiments of Amendment 53, which echoes a previous amendment about the need to drive improvement. In my noble friend’s Amendment 45, he asks a legitimate question, which I think the Minister will need to answer.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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Once again, I thank all noble Lords for bringing this debate before the Committee today. There have been a wide range of views on the establishment of the ICSs and on what is currently going on in the NHS.

I will start with Amendments 22 and 24 from the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, which were supported very strongly by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of King’s Heath, and on the ICBs’ establishment. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for bringing the amendments, and I understand her concerns about ensuring that ICBs are established in a timely way. We agree. We have had an interesting debate here. A number of people have said that it is really important, given that ICSs have already been established, that you put it on a statutory footing, but we are also being asked how they dare to go ahead and do this, because the legislation is not there yet.

In recognition of the fact that ICSs have been set up in some areas and are being established, we are trying to get the right balance. That is why work is under way to prepare existing organisations, including CCGs, for the transition once the Bill comes into force.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, rightly asked whether NHS England is pre-empting Parliament. He raises an important point but I assure him that the powers necessary for establishing each ICB and publishing any statutory guidance cannot be made until the Bill has been enacted and the relevant provisions commenced. However, to ensure that ICBs are ready to begin work, NHS England is producing a range of draft guidance, including a model constitution, so that system partners can start work on preparations—but this does not have the power of statutory guidance. The guidance and the model constitution are based on the proposed requirements—

Ambulance Queues: Health Outcomes

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Thursday 13th January 2022

(7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, NHS workers on the front line have been warning for months and months that the service is under strain due to a combination of waning workforce, Covid, respiratory infections, a backlog of patients and a build-up of health problems over lockdowns. The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has been calling for months for a response from Ministers to provide short-term and long-term solutions. We called on the Health Secretary last summer for urgent additional support to be put in place. Why are we still waiting for that leadership and necessary support to materialise?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I am sure the noble Baroness will acknowledge that a number of people have been calling for ways to address this. The Government announced the Urgent and Emergency Care Recovery 10 Point Action Plan last year, which includes supporting 999 and 111 services, looking at primary care and community health services, greater use of urgent treatment centres, increased support for children and young people, better communications and call handling, improving inflow and hospital discharge, looking at mental health needs and a number of other issues. In each of those 10 points we have drilled down on working with trusts and the ambulance service to make sure we can address the issues that are currently being raised.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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My Lords, this has been an excellent and wide-ranging debate, and I really am grateful to all noble Lords who tabled amendments today.

With your Lordships’ leave, I turn first to Amendment 18 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton. This amendment would mean that the relevant ICB and ICP would need to be consulted before NHS England is able to provide support and assistance to bodies other than NHS bodies. The NHS has, under successive Governments of all political colours—indeed, since its foundation in 1948—commissioned care from various sectors to help it be more responsive to patients’ needs, and particularly to help deliver the commitments set out in the NHS constitution.

The vast majority of NHS care has been—and will rightly continue to be—provided by taxpayer-funded public sector organisations. But experience before and during the pandemic has demonstrated how important it is for NHS England to have the power, as the Trust Development Authority currently does, to provide support and assistance to any providers of services on behalf of the NHS. This will ensure that independent providers can, if necessary, be commissioned to provide important additional capacity where needed.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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I really rather hoped the Minister would not go into whether or not I was suggesting that we should or should not be using private services. This is about who commissions services; this is not about who provides services. In my opening remarks, I said that a variety of providers is exactly what we have and will continue to have.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for that clarification.

The amendment seeks to exclude individuals whose GP practices hold an alternative provider of medical services, or APMS, contract from being a member of an integrated care board. While APMS contracts may not be appropriate for all GPs, they offer the ICBs, as commissioners, greater flexibility than other general practice contract types. As the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, acknowledged, the APMS framework allows commissioners to contract specific primary medical care services to meet local needs. APMS contractors include some private and third sector social enterprises and GP partnerships, which provide outreach health services for homeless people, asylum seekers and others. It is quite clear that none of this diminishes the commitment to ensure that care is provided free at the point of use, paid for by taxpayers.

All contract holders providing NHS core primary medical services are subject to the same requirements, regulations and standards, regardless of the type of contract. The Care Quality Commission, as the independent regulator, ensures that all contracts meet these standards.

Some GP partnerships concurrently hold a general medical services contract for core medical provision, as well as an APMS contract. Some individual GPs provide services for a range of practices. The concern is that this amendment would exclude GPs working for one or multiple practices which operate under APMS contracts from being members of the ICB.

NHS England’s draft guidance states that nominated members of an ICB will be full members of the unitary board, bringing knowledge and a perspective from their sectors, but not acting as delegates of those sectors.

This amendment would prevent some individuals being on integrated care boards, based on what type of NHS GP contract their practice holds. This could limit the ability of primary medical service providers to appoint an ICB member who understands the health requirements of the local population. This could reduce the diversity of GPs who could be appointed, based on their contract type. If we think of the unintended consequences, this may inadvertently exclude representatives with much-needed expertise in serving specific local populations and addressing their health needs.

Earlier, we talked about tackling inequalities. I feel very strongly that there are sometimes unintended consequences, where people think that they know better what is best for their communities. It would be unfortunate to exclude APMS contracts, or anyone who had an APMS contract and who had the expertise needed for those communities that are not receiving an adequate service, or for poor, immigrant communities. This could go against the goal that we all want to see of tackling inequalities.

I now turn to Amendments 29 and 30. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, and the noble Lord, Lord Davies, for bringing this issue before the Committee. I understand the interest in the role of independent providers in the integrated care boards. I also understand the concern across the Committee to ensure that independent providers, including companies seeking to produce health and care products, should not be appointed to the board of ICBs. We agree. Integrated care boards will be NHS bodies whose board membership consists of a minimum of individuals nominated by NHS providers, GP services and local authorities whose areas coincide with that of the ICB.

Although, as has been acknowledged, service provision by the independent and voluntary sectors has been an important and valuable feature of the system under successive Governments, it has never been the intention for independent providers as corporate entities to sit on integrated care boards, nor for an individual appointed to be there as a representative of an individual provider, in any capacity. People must therefore be assured that the work of ICBs will be driven by health outcomes, not profit. However, we recognise that this is a matter of concern to many noble Lords, as well as to the other place. We have been keen to put this beyond doubt, which is why we brought forward the amendment on this very point at Report stage in the other place. This amendment makes clear that no one may be appointed to an ICB who would undermine the independence of the NHS as a result of their interests in the private healthcare sector, social enterprise or elsewhere, including the public sector.

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for that suggestion and for trying to narrow the gap that there clearly is. If an amendment were put forward, we would look at it very carefully and consider the unintended consequences from the way it is drafted. We will consider it but, as I am sure the noble Baroness appreciates, I can make no promises at this stage.

I turn to the point made by my noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral about how provider input in the work of an ICB will be reconciled with assessing both the suitability and performance of providers. As my noble friend correctly noted, each ICB must make arrangements on managing the conflict of interest and potential conflicts of interest, such that they do not and do not appear to affect the integrity of the board’s decision-making processes. Furthermore, each appointee to the ICB is expected to act in the interests of the ICB. They are not delegates of their organisations, but are there to contribute their experience and expertise for the effective running of the ICB—a point made most eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, my noble friend Lady Harding and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. It is important that this is about expertise, not the trust or organisation that they are taken from, or their skills and knowledge, as the noble Lord, Lord Mawson, said.

We are also keen to allow ICBs to develop their own governance arrangements, which best take their local circumstances into account. We want to give them the flexibility to learn and develop as their best practice evolves, so that other ICBs could learn from that best practice where there are concerns.

To support ICBs, NHS England is working with them to issue guidance and to develop and make clear our expectations of ICB leaders—expectations that have been reflected in the discussions and fantastic contributions from many noble Lords. For these reasons, I regret that the Government cannot accept these amendments at this stage. However, I hope I have given noble Lords such reassurance that they feel able to withdraw their amendments.

Turning to the membership of integrated care boards, I will begin with Amendments 27, 37, 38, 39, 40 and 41. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have brought forward these amendments today. I understand the interest from all sides in this membership. Schedule 2 sets out the minimum membership of the integrated care board; it will need to include members nominated by NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts, by persons who provide primary medical services and by local authorities of areas that coincide with or include the whole or any part of the ICB’s area.

I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, about mental health. I am sure he recalls the debate on Tuesday, when noble Lords felt very strongly about this. I have offered to meet many noble Lords from across the Committee who indicated that they want to see this parity with mental health, which they do not believe is implicit at the moment, even if we believe that “health” refers to physical and mental health. Indeed, it refers to spiritual health in many ways. But we understand that we have to close that gap and I will make sure that the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, is invited to those meetings.

It is important for us that we are not overprescriptive, which is especially true of any membership requirement. Any extension beyond the proposed statutory minimum will risk undermining local flexibility to design a board, as my noble friends Lord Mawson and Lady Harding and others have said, in the most suitable way for each area’s unique needs, drawing on the best expertise, but not where they are from. It may also make the boards less nimble and less able to make important decisions rapidly if we overprescribe.

It is important to remind the Committee—I apologise if noble Lords do not appreciate the repetition—that we set a floor and not a ceiling. The ICB can appoint board members if it wishes. Local areas can, by agreement, go beyond the legislative minimum requirements. They will want to ensure they appoint individuals with the experience and expertise to address the needs and fulfil the functions. Areas are already doing this. For example, in south-east London the ICB is proposing to include three provider members—acute, community and mental health—and six place members, one for each borough. This approach is exactly how we want ICBs to use the flexibility available to them.

If, in time, some of the concerns expressed today by noble Lords become clear—such as issues being skated over, ignored or elbowed out by others with louder voices—we may need to add further requirements that relate to ICB membership, and there are regulation-making powers in place in Schedule 2 to allow the Secretary of State to do so. Furthermore, NHS England has the power to issue statutory guidance to ICBs. It could, for example, use this to recommend that each ICB should consider appointing a learning disability and autism senior responsible officer, as I know the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, has asked for and has spoken about most eloquently many times, most recently in a debate a few weeks ago.

Taken together, our approach reflects our view and, I reiterate, the view of the NHS that we should not attempt to overlegislate for the composition of ICBs and instead let them evolve as effective local entities to reflect local need. Let us get the right balance between the top-down and bottom-up approach, and make sure that they are relevant to their local areas. I am afraid that these amendments are seen to take a different approach, by adding more people to the minimum requirements for the ICB, making them larger but not necessarily better. They also add additional complexity by introducing a significant number of members who are responsible for activity outside the NHS. We think these would be better represented on the integrated care partnerships, which have a broader remit. I come back to the point that it is about expertise, not which trust.

I will consider the comments made by noble Lords very carefully if some of the concerns have not been met, and will have future conversations, between this stage and the next, if they feel that we have not addressed their concerns completely. I regret that the Government cannot accept these amendments. I hope that I have given your Lordships some, if not complete, reassurance and that noble Lords will feel able at this stage to withdraw and not press their amendments.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his detailed response. I was disappointed with the first remarks he made because he resorted to the mantra that the Government tend to go to when the question of private sector interests in delivering healthcare is raised by this side of the House. That is a shame, because the questions that we have raised are legitimate. In fact, his friends in the Commons accepted the conflicts of interest that could arise from private sector interests being represented on ICBs. We were seeking to make sure that that is watertight and there is no way of it changing. That is a legitimate question to ask.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Patel, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Meacher, for supporting Amendment 37, which is the key amendment in this group as to who may or may not be members of the board.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, made a powerful case for the interests of people with learning disabilities and autism being represented. We know that where health systems make the health of people with learning disabilities a central priority, the whole health system benefits from it. That has happened in some places—for example, in Manchester—and it demonstrates how we improve the whole system. It is an important point.

My noble friend Lady Bakewell made the point about Centene and Operose, and that is partly why I put forward my amendment on APMS. The Minister may recall that we raised this matter in Questions a few weeks ago, when I asked him to write to me about what system had been used to give that contract to Centene, or Operose, in Camden, the area where I live. Having served on the CCG in Camden, I was aware of the importance of who runs primary care and of who the GPs in our surgeries are. Having right and proper people and organisations running our primary care was one of the criteria that you would use as a commissioner when you were looking at who was running, and who might wish to run, primary care and GP surgeries. I was involved in that process. As I learn about the history and background of this organisation now running primary care and GP surgeries in the UK, I do not think they are right and proper people to be doing that.

If this amendment does not serve the purpose of stopping that happening, I ask the Minister and the Bill team to reflect on what we might need to do to ensure that those from the private sector, social enterprises and charities whom we commission to run parts of our health service are right and proper people to do so. The remarks made in that regard by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, were very interesting and useful, as they often are.

The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, made the point about public health. That is the theme running through this Bill: the need for public health to be represented. She was also absolutely correct to bring us back to the idea that clinical leadership is very important. Of course it is. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London asked some pertinent questions.

My noble friend Lady Pitkeathley raised the issue of social enterprises, which is close to my heart. I am the honorary secretary of the All-Party Group for Social Enterprise, which I helped to found 20-odd years ago. The APPG has just completed an inquiry, chaired by the noble Earl, Lord Devon, about the impact of Covid on social enterprises, which absolutely illustrates the points made by my noble friend and which I will share with the Minister when it is available.

The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, made relevant points about Allied Healthcare. I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and I agree that the problem with APMS is that there is a lack of clarity and it is a bit of a loophole, and we need to look at it again. This may not be the Bill to do it in, but it might be.

With those remarks, and hopeful that the issue of who the members of the ICBs will be will run through our discussions for the next few weeks, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Respiratory Viruses

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Tuesday 11th January 2022

(7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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My noble friend makes a very important point that during the winter people quite often need some help and assistance with winter fuel and other issues. For RSV and influenza, this winter we have had the continued offer of vaccination for 50 to 64 year-olds for the first time, and to additional cohorts. By 19 December, 82% of people aged 65 years and over and 48% of people under 65 years in risk groups had received a flu vaccine.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, in July last year my right honourable friend Jonathan Ashworth anticipated the risk of co-infection with both viruses—popularly known as “flurona”—being likely to compound the impact of Covid. He asked then whether the Prime Minister would invest now in testing capacity so that, alongside a Covid test, it would be possible to test for flu and RSV. Is there a plan to take up multipathogen testing for the future—it is obviously too late for this winter—as we learn to live with Covid?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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There are a number of innovations when it comes to vaccines and testing for vaccines. Indeed, some of the companies and organisations we spoke to recently about future testing requirements, for example, have looked at multiple tests or tests where you can identify multiple conditions. It is one of the things that the department and the NHS are continuing to have conversations on with suppliers.

Health and Care Bill

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Lord Kamall Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Kamall) (Con)
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I start by thanking the noble Baroness, and indeed all noble Lords who have spoken thus far. I will make a general point in response to my noble friend Lord Cormack. I recognise that I am relatively new to this House and that I have much to learn. I hope to learn much, not only from noble Lords who have more experience of the procedures of this House and of holding the Government to account but from many noble Lords from across the House with medical expertise and management expertise in the health and social care sector.

I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, for bringing this debate before the Committee. Amendment 1 would mean that we could not commence the change of legal name from the National Commissioning Board to NHS England until after an impact assessment for each of the clauses in Part 1 of the Bill is published, while Amendment 315 would mean that we could not commence Part 1 until after the publication of an impact assessment for each clause’s impact on the risks, costs and benefits to patients.

I hope I can reassure the noble Baroness that my department has published the impact assessments. She acknowledged this and I accept that they were not published in the most timely way. I will endeavour to do my best to make sure that we publish these assessments with as much notice as possible. They are available for noble Lords to review on GOV.UK. I am very happy for the noble Baroness to take credit for the first impact assessment. We will endeavour to do better. We will also commit to publishing further impact assessments for secondary legislation made under the powers contained in the Bill, where those regulations will have significant impact on the health and care system or private businesses, to provide transparency and clarity to the system.

The amendment would also delay the commencement of Part 1 until at least six months after commencement regulations were laid before your Lordships’ House. This would delay the implementation of the key provisions contained in Part 1.

The NHS put forward its recommendations for legislation in 2019. It is preparing, subject to parliamentary passage, to implement the ICB provisions of the Bill from July 2022. We know that ICBs in effect exist in many areas, in whatever form of development, and it is essential that we put these on a statutory footing as soon as possible. The development of ICBs builds on years of development work in local systems to improve partnership working. Delaying the implementation risks a loss of momentum in establishing statutory integrated care boards and the benefits that they are intended to deliver. For these reasons, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for that very gracious answer and start to our deliberations. I also thank in particular the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. I really was rather hoping that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, would come in, as this is absolutely what he knows about. He is quite right. I hope that noble Lords who are experts in this will look carefully at the Bill and at the two reports I referred to, because they will need to guide us in our deliberations over the next few weeks.

Let us see what the impact assessment says—whether it works or not—and see whether we need to review certain parts of the Bill with a view to looking at the Constitution Committee’s report, for example, which also was published only yesterday. With that, and with the warning that this is the beginning and not the end of the discussion, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) (Amendment) (No. 6) Regulations 2021

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Wednesday 15th December 2021

(8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, this has been a proper House of Lords debate and I thank the Minister for introducing the regulations with such clarity. I need to declare an interest as a non-executive director of an NHS hospital.

I would like to start my remarks by quoting my honourable friend Wes Streeting, the shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who said yesterday that

“it should not be for me, as shadow Secretary of State, to point out”

to some Conservative MPs, following remarks made in the media in recent days,

“that we are not living in the 1930s and that the Secretary of State and his team are not Nazis.”—[Official Report, Commons, 14/12/21; col 954.]

It is sad that my honourable friend felt that he needed to say that. Our history is peppered with examples of where we required citizens to act in a way that served both their own self-interest and the interests of others. That does not make us a totalitarian state. I believe that the public are less outraged by the fact that some obligations are being placed on them than by the antics of those who blatantly and arrogantly imagine that the obligations do not apply to them.

On these Benches we will be supporting the Government today, as we did yesterday, and we will vote with the Government if the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, chooses to test the opinion of the House on either of the fatal amendments before us. Actually, the noble Lord said that these Benches would go further than the Motions before us. That is not true—but what is certainly true is that we have tended to be two or three weeks ahead of the Government. We have said “We think you need to do this, that or the other”—and I can testify to this, having been here for nearly two years, saying this —and the Government have said “No, no, no”, and two or three weeks later that is exactly what happens.

We will act in the national interest, as we have done throughout the pandemic, putting public health before party politics, by supporting the Motions under consideration now. Our task today—as it has been throughout the pandemic—is to consider what is best for the health of our nation and how to discharge our responsibility to protect our NHS.

The noble Lord, Lord Fowler, absolutely nailed it when he said that we had to listen to the CMO, the CSO, the other scientists and the public health experts, and follow the course of action that they were recommending. This was echoed by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, who said that we should be listening to the advice we are given. My noble friend Lord Davies put these regulations into proportion in terms of what they are seeking to achieve. There is no doubt that sacrifices have impacted on lives, livelihoods and liberties; that is why noble Lords need to scrutinise and question how the Government are dealing with this issue, or indeed mishandling it. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, and other noble Lords that we would be having this debate today whether or not he had put down his amendments.

On Sunday the Prime Minister made a totally unnecessary broadcast which served to panic people and create worry and confusion. Presumably he was trying to re-establish leadership credibility for himself, which clearly did not work with his own Conservative Benches. The broadcast was irresponsible in its lack of preparedness and clarity. As well as displeasing Mr Speaker, as the Prime Minister tends to do, it held Parliament in contempt yet again.

The lack of clarity is clear, for example, as NHS England and the Prime Minister have made conflicting promises on the booster rollout, leaving plans to deal with the rapid spread of omicron mired in chaos and confusion. On Sunday evening, the Prime Minister said:

“Everyone eligible aged 18 and over in England will have the chance to get their booster before the New Year.”


However, the NHS has promised a different target, pledging to offer all adults the chance to book a booster rather than receive one. Pressed on the conflicting advice, NHS England said:

“The NHS vaccination programme will offer every adult the chance to book a COVID-19 booster vaccine by the end of the year”.


Perhaps the Minister could clarify for the House which it is. If the Prime Minister has promised 1 million vaccinations a day, how is that supposed to be achieved?

I think it was even worse for local government than for the NHS. A local council leader in London, with a London-wide strategic role, said that 72 hours’ notice would have been helpful. It is not the need to up the vax and testing capability but the lack of planning—hence no tests, no testing ability and vaccinations not available. There was not one mention of local government in the Statement we heard on Monday. Had the relevant Government departments talked to local government, and when did they do that? It begs the question: did the NHS even know about Sunday’s statement before it was made?

We cannot yet be sure about the severity of the omicron variant, but we can be certain, as many noble Lords have said, that it is spreading faster than any other variant. Even if a smaller proportion of omicron victims are hospitalised, the rapid advance of the virus through the population could see large numbers of people admitted to hospital during the months in which the NHS is already under the greatest pressure. The winter months present pressures on the NHS in any normal year, and we know that this is far from a normal year.

The NHS is contending with winter pressures, a serious backlog, the delta variant and now this variant. Many of the challenges are understandable, given the unprecedented challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic, but we have got to be honest and acknowledge that confronting them has been made much harder because the country went into the pandemic with waiting lists already at 4.5 million, 100,000 NHS staff vacancies and a shortage of 112,000 staff in social care. My noble friend Lord Rooker was quite correct on that. We support the NHS and care services in the task they have been set. Let me say from these Benches to every NHS worker, every GP, every pharmacist, every public health official in local government, every member of the Armed Forces and every volunteer stepping up to meet this enormous task that we are with them 100% and thank them again.

The measures put forward for consideration today are an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, while trying to protect Christmas so that people can enjoy the festive season. They are about limiting interactions in the workplace, wearing face coverings in settings where the virus finds it easiest to spread, testing before we attend large indoor gatherings, and getting behind the booster rollout to ensure that everyone who can be protected is protected.

The goal in the end must be to learn to live with the virus. That means effective vaccination, antiviral treatments and public health measures that have a minimal impact on our lives, jobs and businesses. No one enjoys wearing a mask, but it is nothing compared with the costs that more draconian restrictions have for our lives, livelihoods and liberties. Masks are simply a price worth paying for our freedom to go out and live our lives during this pandemic.

On the introduction of a Covid pass for large indoor gatherings, the Labour Party argued against vaccine passports without the option of showing a negative test. Further, we argued that such passes should not be required for access to essential services. On both counts, I am pleased to say that the Government listened and amended the proposals, so we will support this measure today. I regret that colleagues on the Liberal Democrat Benches do not feel able to do so, but let me be clear: we in the Labour Party support Covid passes because we support British businesses. We want to give people the confidence to go out and about—to go to venues and to the theatre—despite the presence of this virus.

With passes and lateral flow tests, venues can operate at 100% capacity. Look at Italy, France and Denmark—countries with strict Covid rules. All have seen their retail and recreation sectors fare far better than those in the UK. However, for the passes to work, people must be able to access tests readily and easily. We cannot continue in this situation where tests are out of stock, so I ask the Minister whether this has been resolved or when it will be.

For months, we have called for workers to be given the flexibility to work from home and we support the guidance to work from home where possible. However, how does the Minister explain the contradiction that many noble Lords have asked about, which is why, at the same time, the Government are allowing them to go to Christmas parties? By limiting the interactions people have at work and by lowering infections, we hope to preserve their ability to go ahead with social events anyway.

Noble Lords have talked about ventilation in schools. We know that young people have borne the brunt of this pandemic, and we owe it to them and their education to support them and staff to make sure our schools are properly ventilated. The Christmas holidays seem to us to be an ideal time to get young people vaccinated. When does the Minister expect to know about this matter and share it with the House?

I hope this is my last contribution on Covid this year. I therefore end by wishing all noble Lords a safe and happy Christmas.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I start by thanking noble Lords for their valuable contributions to this debate. They showed the very best of debate in this place, in the range of views covered—some political, some scientific and some challenging the Government on constitutional issues. This demonstrates the importance of these discussions and I welcome all contributions, whether or not I agree with them. That is the purpose of debate and discussion.

I remind some of my noble friends behind me and other noble Lords why we have acted now and gone to plan B. We want to slow the spread of the virus, after looking at the replication rate; we want to buy time for more people, especially the older and more vulnerable, to get their booster dose; and we want to give our experts crucial time to gather and understand the data about omicron.

Noble Lords, and indeed noble friends, look at the experience of South Africa. As the noble Lord, Lord Birt, and others have said, its experience is different. It has a younger population, with an average age of about 29, when our average age is in the mid to high 40s. Given our experience at the beginning of the Covid pandemic, when a disproportionate number of older people died, surely it is right that we collect data to make sure that the most vulnerable people are safe before we go forward.

I turn to some specific points raised by noble Lords. As I said, my noble friend Lord Robathan asked about the data from Africa, which we will continue to monitor. We will monitor whether it is different or milder here.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, mentioned the risk of exponential growth and I thank her for making that point. We do not want to see waiting times and patient numbers starting to overwhelm hospitals. By the time we had waited for exact data, it might be too late. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, rightly spoke about the limited data available. I assure the House that we will continue to review the data as it comes in.

Breast Screening

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Tuesday 14th December 2021

(8 months ago)

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for giving me advance notice of the question, and so giving me the chance to get some information. Data on cancer stages is currently published only annually, and NHS Digital is publishing the data from 2019 on Thursday 16 December. The latest data from 2018 shows that nearly 86% of breast cancers were diagnosed at stages 1 and 2, meaning that about 15% were diagnosed at stages 3 and 4, but this was pre-pandemic. I will make sure that I get the updated data as soon as possible.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, in October, when we last had a Question on this issue, the Minister was asked about the need to ensure that innovative new treatments such as Trodelvy reach patients as quickly as possible. I gather that this issue is still not resolved. As yet, there is no agreement between the drug company Gilead and the NHS, which means that access to this transformational treatment is extremely ad hoc and unfair. Will the Minister please help to expedite this issue with NICE, the MHRA and the manufacturer?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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As the noble Baroness will acknowledge, the MHRA and NICE are independent, but I can, of course, raise the issue with them.

Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) (No. 2) Regulations 2021

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Tuesday 14th December 2021

(8 months ago)

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Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as a non-executive director of an NHS hospital. I thank the Minister for explaining this statutory instrument, although I have to confess that I had a moment of panic during his opening statement. I thank him also for explaining his understanding of how the Government arrived at this point. I note that the department has at last produced at least something called an impact assessment, as well as other documentation. This was the subject of my Motion to Regret, now withdrawn. That does not mean that I no longer regret the lackadaisical manner in which this Government approach their accountability to Parliament and the legislative process.

As most noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, have said to the Minister in clear language, we still wish to know how the legislation will operate. We hope that the Minister will be more forthcoming about, for example, the “significant workforce capacity risk” which the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee mentioned in its very critical report. We note that the committee was damning in its criticism, and I thank my noble friend Lord Cunningham for speaking about the fact that these things are not an option but a requirement.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, that we agree with her criticism of the Government’s handling of these issues. We absolutely agree about the procedure, the drafting and the lack of justification that supports the legislation. I have been commenting on this from this Dispatch Box since March last year. However, the noble Baroness did not say that this was necessarily the wrong way to go. I withdrew my regret Motion because, today, given the new clear threat of omicron, we need to focus on the way forward. I do not believe that that is a political reason for withdrawing the Motion. Had the noble Baroness tested the opinion of the House on her fatal Motion, we on these Benches would have supported the Government, just as we are doing right now in the Commons. The Labour Party has acted, and will always act, in the best interests of our NHS, our public health and our nation.

Of course, we want everyone working in the NHS to take up the vaccine. It is safe and effective, and the Government should be focused on driving up vaccination rates through persuasion, education and support for the vaccine-hesitant, as many noble Lords, particularly those on the Liberal Democrat Benches, have said. We know that omicron is now a clear threat. It is important that the elderly and the vulnerable, and those being cared for in healthcare settings, are protected. Vaccination also protects staff from severe disease, so we will not oppose the Government on this.

Compulsory vaccination for NHS staff is a difficult question—of course it is—as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans and my noble friend Lord Hunt explained to the House. We would all much prefer that all front-line NHS staff voluntarily agree to have the vaccine. The latest SAGE advice, however, suggests that omicron may increase the risk of hospital-acquired infections. Vaccination will not eliminate all transmission, but it will reduce the risks and protect both patients and staff in the NHS from severe disease. It may also reduce staff absences caused by Covid.

Of course, there is a precedent for certain NHS staff having to be vaccinated, for example against hepatitis, and given the evidence that being vaccinated reduces the risk of transmission, it is reasonable to ask whether those who are looking after our loved ones should themselves have taken every step possible to reduce the risk that they may pass the virus on to those whom they are caring for, many of whom may be elderly and vulnerable.

However, ahead of any rollout, the Government must ensure that this change does not make the staffing crisis in the NHS any worse and must work with the royal colleges, NHS Providers and the trade unions to agree a framework for how this change is rolled out. The trade unions and royal colleges have been critical of the proposals for compulsory vaccination, ahead of what will be, and is becoming, a very difficult and challenging winter for the NHS because of the implications this could have for staffing. So we welcome the fact that the Government have pushed the date back to April 2022, but we continue to be concerned about the implications that mandatory vaccination for NHS workers will have on staff shortages. We have asked the Government to set out a plan for this.

For the record, on the separate issue of mandatory vaccination for the public, the Prime Minister probably puzzled the whole nation—he certainly puzzled me—when he floated this idea. We are opposed to this—as is the Minister’s boss, I expect. We are opposed to the use of Covid status certification for access to essential services. Forcing the general population to have the vaccine would not only be wrong but impractical. The Government have not brought forward any measures to introduce this, and we would not support any future attempt to do so.

Finally, all of us want to enjoy Christmas safely this year. We all want to protect our NHS, which has been suffering from staff shortages and record waiting lists and has been performing miracles for the last 18 months. Our best defence against all variants of the virus, including omicron, is that we all get vaccinated.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for taking part in this debate. I apologise to noble Lords for getting the terminology wrong at the beginning. I will make sure that that is corrected in future.

I thank my noble friend Lady Noakes for raising this important issue, and for challenging us and rightly holding the Government to account on many procedural issues. I accept that your Lordships perform an essential role in scrutinising the measures that we have put forward today. That is one of the things that makes me very proud to be a Member of this House. I recognise the strength of feeling of your Lordships for and against what we are proposing and about the procedures thus far. I know that these feelings are sincere and heartfelt.

I now turn to some of the point raised by noble Lords. My noble friends Lady Noakes and Lord Cormack and the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, raised questions about the red-rated impact assessment from the Regulatory Policy Committee. I hear the concerns of this House, and I acknowledge that, due to the necessity to move as quickly as possible and minimise the risk to those who are vulnerable, we were unable to publish the full impact assessment alongside the regulations being laid. We set out a statement of impacts, and the full impact assessment has now been published on GOV.UK, but I accept the argument made by noble Lords that this is rather late. We have also now published additional consideration of the points raised by the RPC in relation to private businesses.

My noble friend Lady Noakes also asked what the Government have done in response to the criticisms of regulations from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. I reassure noble Lords that we have published the updated Explanatory Memorandum to provide additional information on the specific concerns raised. I also accept the criticisms that this could have been more timely. This includes more information on the scientific and clinical rationale for the policy, the exemptions that have been provided for, those not included, and the steps that we have taken to further encourage uptake of vaccinations and to mitigate work- force risks.

The SLSC also raised concerns about the impact assessment on process. We have worked hard and as quickly as possible to finalise the impact assessment that we feel best captures the likely impact of this novel policy in the uncertain circumstances that we are still living through and the need sometimes to react quickly. As my noble friend Lady Noakes rightly said, this impact assessment was laid before the House in advance of this debate.

My noble friend Lady Noakes also raised the question of whether a cost of £270 million is value for money, considering the impact assessment. While it is not possible to model the non-monetised benefits that this policy would have due to the limited data available, the health benefits through reduced infections and deaths among health and care users—as well as the wider community—from the workforce being vaccinated are likely to be large and should be considered when focusing on costs.

A key benefit is the impact of reassurance to patients and care users that they are being looked after by staff who are vaccinated. This avoids the very dangerous situation of people feeling wary of going to the NHS and other health and care providers, which can have dangerous long-term implications regarding health outcomes for our society. This is non-monetised, yet it remains a highly significant factor.

My noble friend Lady Noakes also asked about the workforce impact of this legislative instrument. As of 5 December, 521,000 staff in all care homes, or nearly 96%, have been vaccinated with the first dose, and 511,000 staff, or 94%, are reported to have received a second dose based on responses from 99% of providers. Although NHS workforce figures are dynamic as people join and leave, since the Government consulted on the policy in September, the latest published figures show an overall net increase of NHS staff vaccinated with a first dose of over 55,000.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh also raised valid questions about the impact on the social care workforce. We are not aware of any care homes where VCOD is the primary reason for closure, but we continue to work with our regional assurance team, which works closely with regions across the country to understand the local and regional pressures, and offer support and advice as appropriate.

In social care, we have already put in place a range of measures to help local authorities and providers to address workforce capacity pressures; indeed, I have announced some of those in this House. As in healthcare, there will be a 12-week grace period for workers in the wider social care sector before requirements come into force, which will give all unvaccinated staff time to get their jab. We are focusing every effort on promoting and encouraging vaccine take-up across social care, and £300 million was announced for the workforce on Friday 10 December to support the care sector over winter.

My noble friend Lord Cormack, the noble Lords, Lord Cunningham and Lord Hunt, and several other noble Lords have eloquently raised points about the use of retrospective legislation and emphasised the importance of parliamentary processes. I sympathise with noble Lords who are concerned about some of the procedural aspects of the passage of this legislation.

As my noble friend Lord Cormack rightly said, in unprecedented times such as these it is right that the Government do everything in their power to protect the vulnerable. Vaccination is our best defence against Covid. It reduces the likelihood of infection and therefore helps to break chains of transmission, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, rightly acknowledged. It is safe and effective. The legislation will protect those receiving care in all health and social care settings as well as our valuable health and social care workforce themselves.

I agree with my noble friend on the point about reviewing the use of such legislation. I assure noble Lords that Regulation 5 sets out the requirement for the Secretary of State to carry out an annual review of these regulations, taking into account clinical advice and accessibility and availability of authorised vaccines, and to publish a report setting out the conclusions of this review.

On my noble friend Lord Cormack’s suggestion of an ongoing Joint Committee, I apologise if the response I suggested was inaccurate. I suggest that I discuss it with him so that I can learn from his experience of parliamentary procedures.

The noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, referenced the importance of encouraging the hesitant. I completely agree. We both come from the same part of London; indeed, she informed me that we went to the same school. We come from an incredibly diverse area, and we understand the different concerns and pressures in many of these communities; as noble Lords will recognise, I myself come from one of these communities. But as she will know, the NHS has focused in recent months on a targeted approach to improve uptake in hesitant groups by undertaking campaigns not only based on function, such as at midwifery staff, but directed at different communities, such as ethnic-minority groups and students, as well as using the booster campaign as an opportunity to re-engage staff. I repeat my gratitude to noble Lords across the House who have suggested to me ways that we can address many of these communities, including working with interfaith communities and networks which really understand these communities and have the trust of many individuals.

Covid-19: PCR and Lateral Flow Test Providers

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Monday 13th December 2021

(8 months ago)

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for bringing that to my attention. I was in a meeting with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care as well as other Ministers today. We were told categorically that we have ordered many more tests to enable people to test more often.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, there are hundreds of private test companies to choose from when you are heading abroad, and that is part of the problem. Which? carried out some mystery shopping in the autumn and revealed a list of companies that give the most reliable and best-value tests—I share that information with the House—and also the ones to avoid as being rip-offs and unreliable. Is the Minister aware of this consumer research? What notice will the Government be taking of the ones that Which? recommends not to use? Have they yet been removed from the Government’s list?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for making noble Lords aware of that particular comparison website—let me put it that way. We try carefully not to recommend particular private providers or comparison websites, but this market is developing, and there are lots of comparison websites out there looking at this market. As we start to have more testing and do more diagnoses at home, this market will develop.

Ambulance Response Times

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Wednesday 1st December 2021

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, it seems clear that the problem is a symptom of system pressures and will require a whole-system approach to resolve it once and for all—Covid, social care packages to help with discharges and local factors, and the fragility of the NHS infrastructure going in to the pandemic. The Minister has explained some of the short-term emergency plans literally to save lives, but in the absence of an NHS workforce strategy, how will the Government produce a system-wide resolution of this matter?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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The noble Baroness makes a very important point: we should be looking at this in a systemic way. In fact, I did my PhD in a department of system science, where you look at problems in a holistic way—rather than analysing individual problems, you look at the whole system. We found odd unintended consequences. For example, a friend forgot his inhaler, could not get one from the chemist, could not get one from the A&E and, in the end, had to call out an ambulance. There are a number of times when ambulances are called out needlessly, and that is on top of the pressures we are already facing due to Covid. We are tackling the backlog, which, hopefully, will also reduce ambulance waiting times.

Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings) (England) Regulations 2021

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Wednesday 1st December 2021

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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Sorry, was that offensive? I apologise for any offence caused to my noble friend. I just assumed that because I like teacakes, my noble friend also does.

I will start with some of the questions. On the question of how many people have been helped by some of these financial services, as of 17 November 2021, local authorities have reported 362,573 successful claims since the start of the scheme, totalling £181 million in test and trace support systems.

Despite the easing of the restrictions at step 4 of the road map, the Government have continued to recommend that face coverings are worn in crowded and enclosed spaces. We accept that there is wide support for reintroducing mandatory face coverings, but we have always tried to balance these issues. As I said in previous debates, we look at a number of factors, not only medical but economic and social. Also, within health itself, many mental health experts are very concerned that we might go for more lockdowns and about some of the measures that a number of noble Lords have mentioned.

As we saw in the debate, there are noble Lords who believe that we have gone too far and noble Lords who feel that we have not gone far enough unless we effectively enter a second lockdown. That shows the range of views here and the difficulty, as my noble friend, Lady Altmann, said, that the Government are damned if they do, damned if they do not, but we accept that.

So, do face masks actually work? This is where there is still a debate. I thank my noble friend Lady Noakes for pointing out the article by Professor Simon Wood, who is professor of statistics at the University of Edinburgh, in which he analysed the BMJ paper. It is in effect a meta-analysis. A number of newspapers have taken a line saying that wearing a mask cuts Covid by 53%. I encourage noble Lords to read the article, in which he takes apart the statistics as a statistician and looks at, as those who have done statistics will understand, whether we have a significant number of samples to make it statistically sound. In addition, Professor Naismith of Oxford University has been quoted as saying that

“the Scottish and English approach to masking, although formally different since July, has made no meaningful difference to delta.”

Once again we see that there is a whole range of views, but we have listened to those views. Because we do not yet know enough about this variant, we will continue to review the data. For example, some say that it is very mild in South Africa so we should not be overly concerned about it, but we also have to remember that South Africa has a different demographic in terms of younger people. We know that when the virus first struck it disproportionately affected older people—as my noble friend Lord Robathan said, people aged over 85. On the balance of the data at the moment, we believe that wearing face masks works but we have always been very careful to make sure that it is proportionate where we do it.

On the expiry of some of these measures, as the Prime Minister said on Saturday, all the provisions that have been voted on will be reviewed in three weeks. They are necessary and proportionate while we learn more. I refer to the economics Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek, who talked about humans having limited knowledge. He talked about the conceit of knowledge. The way to understand a lot of complex problems is to allow the discovery process to take hold and to look at what we can learn from that process. We should be very careful not to imagine that we have total knowledge. What we have to do is assess it proportionately.

It is our hope that these regulations will no longer be necessary in three weeks’ time and that we can return to the system that we lived under last week, but in the event that we need more time to understand the effect of the variant, or that the data shows that we need to take a different approach that requires new regulations, the House will return to Parliament ahead of the Christmas Recess for a debate and vote on the regulations ahead of their coming into force.

On regulations expiring, the international travel regulations will expire at the end of 16 May 2022. The face covering regulations will expire, unless extended, at the end of 20 December 2021. The self-isolation regulations at the moment expire at the end of 24 March 2022, but we will continue to review the data. Almost daily the data is being reviewed and conversations are going on. We will also continue to review the data on the new variant and we hope to update Parliament on the review in the week commencing 13 December.

A number of noble Lords asked about facilities. We are told that setting up dedicated testing facilities at border entry points such as airports is logistically difficult at the moment, and risks delays to passenger journeys and operations. Given the turnaround for a PCR test, passengers would still have to travel to their home or the place they are staying and isolate there before receiving a result. The Government are taking a measured and proportionate response. We want to try to protect the UK from omicron while allowing continued safe travel.

A number of references were made to points made by Dr Jenny Harries. As the Prime Minster said, the guidance remains the same as the measures that were in place to fight delta. We have now brought in tougher measures, but we continue to take advice from a number of experts. Individual experts are free to give their viewpoint but we look at the balance—some of it medical, some of it clinical, but also economic and social factors—and getting that proportionate.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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I need to ask the Minister about the fact that our most senior adviser on these matters gave advice that was then completely denied by No. 10 and the Government. That will at least cause confusion. It is not a question of balancing this and that; Jenny Harries was very clear in her advice about what she thought should happen. It was quite the opposite to what the Prime Minister said should happen. The Minister needs to acknowledge that that will cause confusion.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for raising the point, but it depends on how it is reported. The real issue here is that a number of different experts are advising. Of course, you can pick and choose which expert you decide to listen to. A few weeks ago, noble Lords were picking up on comments made by the NHS Confederation. That is not a scientific body, but noble Lords claimed that it showed that we need to lock down. It is very easy to pick and choose your experts, but we continue to listen to a wide range of experts.

One of the great things about science that we should remember is that there is no such thing as “the science says”. Science should remain contestable. Can you imagine if science was not contestable? We would still be saying, “You can’t challenge the notion that the solar system revolves around the earth.” Scientists challenged that, and that is how we advance knowledge. It is really important that we continue to contest. Scepticism is one of the most important factors in science to make sure we make progress. We will listen to a range of experts.

I ask those noble Lords who really want to lock down more, and who say that we not only have not done enough but should do more and lock people down, to look at the impact that has on people’s mental health and on our economy. I ask them to think about the wider impact and to remember that we are not in the same place we were a year ago. We have been absolutely clear that vaccines work and that the best thing we can do to get through this is to get vaccinated. It is not too late to get your first or second vaccine. I am grateful to noble Lords who have asked questions—

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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The Minister is now saying that there is absolutely no doubt about the science behind vaccinations. That is not a matter of opinion; there is no doubt about the need for vaccinations. He is straying into dangerous territory when he says that there is science on this side and science on that, because the Government have rightly said that vaccination is the way forward.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for agreeing with the Government’s line that vaccination is the most important way forward.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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The Minister is being patronising. We have always—always—supported the Government on vaccination; I am sorry that the Minister feels he needs to be sarcastic about that.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I apologise to the noble Baroness if I came across as sarcastic.

In terms of hospitality settings, quite rightly, as a number of noble Lords have said, even though we have mandated it in certain settings, it is being left to settings to decide. This is in line with property rights, but also something that people have been asking for—a number of noble Lords have asked “Why not just let the establishments themselves decide, so people can make a decision whether they go to somewhere where masks are mandated or somewhere where they are not mandated?” We are looking really hard at this and we want to make sure that we are proportionate. It could be that we find out that omicron is not that dangerous, but we have to make sure that we have the data and that we sequence it all. It could be that it affects us more in the UK that it would in South Africa because of the change in demographics. That is a really important point.

In terms of who is responsible for enforcement, the police and Transport for London officers have powers to issue fixed penalty notices for non-compliance with the regulations. They are using the four E’s in a proportionate way: engaging, explaining and encouraging before enforcement, just to remind people, if they can, to make sure that they wear a face mask.

The Health Secretary has also asked the JCVI to consider giving boosters to as wide a range of people as possible. If you are boosted, your response is likely to be stronger, so it is more vital than ever that we get our jabs.

On helping the rest of the world, the UK remains committed to donating 100 million doses by mid-2022. We are also extremely grateful to the South African Government; we have been talking to a number of partners, including South Africa directly, to make sure that we do not disincentivise other countries for doing the right thing by reporting the outbreak in the first place. We are doing all that we can.

I am trying to make sure that I answer all the questions; I apologise if I am not able to. My noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe asked about exemptions for children under the age of 11 and those unable to wear a face covering due to health, age, equality or disability reasons. In terms of the impact to the economy, we do not know the extent to which the variant escapes the vaccine, but as soon as we do, we will be able to make a better measure. We do not at the moment expect there to be significant economic disruption. We have said that we believe face coverings are effective at reducing transmission indoors. The recent UKHSA study suggests that all types of face coverings are, to some extent, effective, but we also welcome challenges to that data. The advice remains the same: we believe that, on balance, it is better to wear a face mask. Many noble Lords have agreed and disagreed with that, but we have to balance these things.

Proportionate measures remain in place in schools. Face coverings should now be worn in communal areas by older students and teachers. The Department for Education is looking at how we make sure that there are clear guidelines on that. We advise staff, visitors and pupils to wear face coverings in communal areas.

I turn to the point from the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, and that very personal case; it highlights—this should sober us up—those very powerful words that this is not over. We have said that consistently. It is not over. If we believed it was over, we would have removed all restrictions. It is highly likely, but not definite, that we may have to continue to get boosters. Just as we have an annual flu vaccine, we may in the future end up with an annual Covid vaccine, including looking at other strains.

We have said who is responsible. In answer to a point made by my noble friend Lord Cormack, may I suggest that he takes his point about continuous committees up with the Lord Speaker? That is not really in my remit as Minister for Health. My initial reaction is that it seems a good idea, but let us see what the Lord Speaker says.

I again thank all noble Lords for their contributions and for continuing to challenge. That is really important. I can assure my noble friend Lord Cormack that today I asked my department for a list of potential or forthcoming regulations so that we can lay them as early as possible, as my noble friend and other noble Lords suggested. I am grateful for the acknowledgement that we laid these regulations as quickly as we could, and I pledge that we will try to improve that as much as we can, I too, believe very strongly in procedure and the Government and the Executive being held to account. It is really important.

NHS: Primary Care Surgeries

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Wednesday 24th November 2021

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I am sure that we all want to pay tribute to the work of GPs, who are at the front line and, quite often, are the gateway to many services across the NHS and the wider healthcare system. It is important that we recognise some of the pressures they are under, but also work out how to help them and, indeed, patients. As I have said in the past, I will be a champion of patients and it is important that patients have access to their GPs, as a gateway to further services.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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Notwithstanding the fact that the Minister says that the NHS is not up for sale, would he care to speculate what would motivate an American health insurance company to buy into a UK primary care GP market? Was this procurement carried out under the Covid relaxation that allowed contracts to be awarded without competition, or the usual procurement regime?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I wish I could read the minds of those who bid to run these services, but I am afraid I will have to admit that I cannot. The contracts are awarded at the local level by CCGs. It is their decision and it would be inappropriate for the Government to intervene.

New Hospitals

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Thursday 18th November 2021

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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Each of the building projects will be a new hospital that will deliver brand-new, state-of-the-art facilities. One thing that we must be careful of is that if we say, “Well, you can’t call that a new hospital, even though it is a new facility, because it’s on an existing site”, we do not create perverse incentives, where the local NHS or the local ICS says, “We mustn’t build it there, because we will be accused of not having a new hospital”. Surely what we should be focusing on is outcomes, not inputs, and the fact that we are delivering modern, digital hospitals for the future.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, leaving aside the dubious and overinflated claims of 40 new hospitals, many of which are, in reality, upgrades—as welcome as they are—I and others in the House raised with the Minister’s predecessor but one in 2019 that there was an alarming repairs and infrastructure crisis, which was then in the region of £3 billion. Could the Minister explain to the House which part and how much of the new hospitals programme will address the immediate and urgent matter of crumbling wards, sewer leaks in wards and old and dodgy kit?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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The noble Baroness will recognise that we need not only to build new hospitals but to upgrade existing infrastructure and this is all part of the capital programme. The decisions on individual hospitals and upgrades will be taken in local communities in consultation with clinicians and local ICSs.

Covid-19: UK Arrivals

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Tuesday 16th November 2021

(8 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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Last night I took part in a debate that involved the issue of the Covid pass, particularly with the boosters. I was frustrated because I thought I had a date I could announce. That was pulled at the last moment, but we are very close to a solution. The technical point on test and trace is that, at the moment, it is unable to validate the vaccination status of people whose vaccines are not registered on the database. We are looking at whether that can be done on trust, or whether that would open a loophole for getting around the system. I have been assured when pushing the NHS on this that it is looking at an answer.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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The Minister must accept that this a very confusing area for everybody. Perhaps he would like to clarify the Prime Minister’s comments yesterday on what impact tougher overseas travel rules and self-isolation for those without a jab might have. He mentioned those yesterday in the press conference. I think they are linked to the Question my noble friend asked. It is very important that the NHS app shows the booster as soon as possible, because it is going to cause a lot of trouble for Christmas travel.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I welcome questions from noble Lords, particularly on getting the booster on the app, because when I am talking to officials in the department and the NHS it shows how important it is that we do this as quickly as possible. One of the tasks is to be accountable and to push the NHS and others to make sure that we are doing this. Sadly, when I ask what the problem is on test and trace, I am told that it is unable to validate the vaccination status of people whose vaccines are not recorded on a national immunisation management system. I have asked about passenger locator forms and whether we could use a similar technology. At the moment that is done on trust, but you face a very high fine if you are misleading; maybe that could be a solution. I assure noble Lords that I really am pushing.

NHS England: Waiting Lists

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Tuesday 16th November 2021

(8 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to reduce NHS England waiting lists.

Lord Kamall Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Kamall) (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for raising this. It is a top priority for the Government and for the NHS. This year we are providing a record amount of funding to the NHS, with an extra £34 billion. This includes £2 billion this year plus £8 billion over the next three years to step up activity to tackle long waiting lists for elective care and to transform elective services. This funding could deliver around 9 million more checks, scans and procedures.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. I figured that that was what he would say. It is not about how much the Government intend to put in but how it is being spent. That is particularly important in the absence of any workforce strategy. If the billions were directed immediately at investing in social care and care workers, for example, both domiciliary and care homes, how many beds does the Minister believe could be freed up in the next eight weeks? What effect would that have on the throughput for elective surgery and accident and emergency departments?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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When you look at the data on the waiting lists, what is interesting is that 75% of patients on the list do not require surgical treatment. Most actually require diagnostics. Some 80% of patients requiring surgical treatment could be treated without an overnight stay in hospital, and 20% of patients are waiting for either ophthalmology or orthopaedic services. That shows where you can target the spending to cut the waiting lists.

Gametes and Embryos: Storage Limit

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Tuesday 9th November 2021

(9 months ago)

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for his work on the subject when he was the responsible Minister to help change the policy so that all people, regardless of medical need, may benefit from greater choice about when to start their family. The 10-year renewal periods will be put in place to give people the opportunity to decide whether they wish to continue with their storage of gametes or embryos. The department is currently working with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to set out the plans for detailed implementation, including on how the renewal periods should be handled by fertility clinics to ensure that they work.

Fertility clinics will be expected to contact people storing their gametes or embryos a year before a renewal period has ended, so there would be 12 months’ notice. In addition, people will have a six-month grace period following the expiry of any renewal period, in which they can get in touch with clinics to re-engage storage if they wish. I am sorry that I am going on longer than usual, but this is an important issue. It is our view that we would provide an appropriate amount of time for clinics to contact their patients, and for patients to decide what they wish to do with their gametes or embryos in storage.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, I return to the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, because we need some clarity here. For some people, months count. They will be having their eggs destroyed now, in the next few months. Therefore, while I congratulate the Government on the regulations that added two years to the 10-year period in recognition of the need to provide an extension during the pandemic, the Minister needs to be absolutely clear because time is fast running out. Are the Government going to provide interim transitional arrangements before the legislation is before the House? From these Benches, we are very keen and across the House there is an enormous amount of support for this to happen. Frankly, if the Minister brings forward the regulations tomorrow, they will go through.

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for that very kind offer, but we have already stated that it is the Government’s intention that no one misses out on the opportunity to extend the storage of their eggs, sperm or embryos. As she will be aware, in 2020 in light of the Covid pandemic, we took steps to extend the storage. We are currently considering options to make sure that no one misses out on the benefits of the new policy. Given the detailed consultation we have just been through, we hope to announce details in due course. Of course, if an amendment is laid to the forthcoming Health and Care Bill, we will consider it.

Cancer Drugs: Licensing and Approval

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Monday 8th November 2021

(9 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness. It is important that NICE, MHRA and others hear some of the concerns, and the fact that we are being held to account today shows how important this is. Unfortunately, some existing legislation restricts MHRA’s ability to share information with partners, including NICE, which would help them to plan their processes more efficiently. NICE, MHRA, NHS England and NHS Improvement are talking about the concerns raised by noble Lords and generally about delays in the process. They are talking about how they can improve access, including through initiatives such as the Innovative Licensing and Access Pathway launched in January 2021, and sharing as much information as they can upfront. Both MHRA and NICE are aware of the concerns and made that clear when I met them recently after their board-to-board meeting.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, I will follow up on questions that noble Lords have already asked. The ongoing NICE methods and processes review missed the opportunity to propose a new process to mirror accelerated regulatory processes. There are concerns that capacity constraints will limit NICE’s ability to publish decisions as close to marketing authorisation as possible, including for oncology drugs, through the new Project Orbis route, as has been the case with the secondary breast cancer drug, Trodelvy. Have the Government assessed whether the system is fit for purpose in achieving the objective which the noble Lord has articulated: to deliver quick patient access to new, clinically effective treatments? What concrete steps have been taken so far to address any concerns?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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Both NICE and MHRA are aware of the concerns, particularly regarding the delay between approval and licensing. That is why they are having conversations with NHS England and NHS Improvement to make sure, as far as possible, that they can discuss co-operation to ensure the speedy approval of drugs.

Covid-19: Vaccinations Administered Abroad

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Wednesday 27th October 2021

(9 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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One of the difficult issues we face is pushing international partners to agree that the participants of well-regulated vaccine clinical trials should be treated as fully vaccinated. Only a couple of weeks ago I was on a call with G7 health and transport Ministers, trying to push them to ensure that they recognise those very brave people who came forward for vaccine trials. So far, sadly, we have not had much success. We continue to push them, but, in the meantime, we have found the solution of giving people another vaccine in order for them to be recognised. However, we would prefer international recognition.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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I think the Minister needs to simplify this for the House—it is a very simple issue. If it is possible to register in France that you have been double vaccinated through its systems, why is it not possible to do that in the UK? While the JCVI may be working to fix the issue for UK residents who have been double jabbed abroad, British entry regulations have left foreign visitors in limbo. So, although two doses of Covid vaccine administered by a UK-approved regulator is enough to enter Britain without having to self-isolate, it does not seem to be enough to avoid being pinged by what has now been exposed as our expensive and not very effective test and trace system. Does the Minister agree that this does not make sense, and can he confirm that the JCVI review will also aim to resolve this?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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As I said, we are looking to resolve as many of these issues as possible. There is no logical reason for this not to happen—it is just that we have to push international acceptance but also make sure that we have gone through the processes, especially for those vaccines not recognised by the MHRA.

NHS England Funding: Announcement to Media

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Tuesday 26th October 2021

(9 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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The Minister must by now be aware of the chronic staff shortages in the NHS. He will also be aware of the desperate state of some of our buildings in the NHS, and indeed the inadequate facilities for some of our mental health wards. This announcement mentions diagnostic staff, of which already one in 10 are missing. There is a 55% shortage of consultant oncologists, a shortage of radiologists, a shortage of specialist cancer nurses and, so far, no comprehensive NHS staff plan. Could the Minister tell the House who will run the proposed diagnostic centres? Will it be the NHS? Where will the staff for the diagnostic centres, surgical theatres and to operate the new equipment come from?

Lord Kamall Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Kamall) (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for her question. Since 2010, we have increased the clinical radiology workforce by 48%, from 3,239 to 4,797 full-time equivalent posts. Numbers of diagnostics radiographers are up by 33% since 2010 and therapeutic radiographers are up by 44%. We are offering those who want to join the radiographic workforce at least £5,000 as a non-repayable grant for each year of their training to be a radiographer. Since 2016, we have seen a 26% increase in those studying diagnostic radiography and a 10% increase in those studying therapeutic radiography.

Men’s Health Strategy

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Monday 25th October 2021

(9 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for raising this important topic. I have to admit that I was not aware of this before it was raised. In looking into it further, I know that the noble Baroness was in contact with the previous Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Innovation on the issue. As the matter rests with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, my predecessor, my noble friend Lord Bethell, had followed up with a letter in May this year, outlining the steps that the department is taking regarding toilet facilities, including looking at certain building regulations. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has also launched a call for evidence on the provision of male and female toilets. As soon as we have more information, I will write and update the noble Baroness.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 in the UK. This figure, and the high rate among young men in particular, has not changed for decades. Research by the Samaritans shows that affluent middle-aged men seem particularly vulnerable—stigma and unwillingness to ask for support obviously play a part. What specific measures and investment are the Government building into their mental health strategy to address this serious matter?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for raising this very important issue. We know that men are not a homogenous group, as the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, previously said, but some men are less likely than women to seek help or to talk about suicidal feelings. Others can be reluctant to engage with health and other support services. One of the things we have to do is tackle the stigma associated with this; that has been a key priority for years. That is why we funded the Time to Change campaign to 2020-21; it has played a key role. In addition, we have looked at resources on Every Mind Matters, the mental health hub on the NHS website. We have also issued guidance to local authorities and looked at how we can target the high-risk groups such as men.

Covid-19: Plan B

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Wednesday 20th October 2021

(9 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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In order to judge what the next action should be, the Government have laid out plan A. Plan A is focused, for winter 2021-22, on building defences through vaccines, antivirals and disease-modified therapeutics, identifying and isolating cases of transmission through test and trace, and supporting the NHS and social care, but also advising people on how to protect themselves and offering clear guidance and communications.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, it is quite clear that those things are not working. When I saw the Secretary of State for BEIS doing the media rounds this morning denying that plan B was coming down the track, I thought we might open a book on how soon the Government will actually launch plan B. I would like to ask the Minister whether plan B becomes necessary because the Government have made such a mess of plan A, with very late vaccinations for 12 to 15 year-olds and a worryingly low uptake of booster jabs. Is it too late to prevent an NHS winter crisis, with the knock-on effects that will have for our backlog?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for her question and, while I have the opportunity, for all her advice, as a new boy in the role. We will continue to look at a number of different factors, including both economic and health indicators, before we judge whether it is necessary to move to plan B. Plan B does not actually involve complete lockdown. It involves introducing mandatory vaccine-only Covid status certification in certain riskier settings; legally mandating face coverings in certain settings, such as public transport; and communicating clearly and urgently to the public if the risk level increases.

GPs: In-person Appointments

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Tuesday 19th October 2021

(9 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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The relationship between the patient and the GP is important, so we have made sure that choice is at its centre. As they develop the relationship, they can decide on the most appropriate way to be consulted and to give advice.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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The Government have consistently promised and failed to increase the number of GPs. Instead of the 5,000 additional ones promised in 2015, this year we have 1,300 fewer GPs. When the Health Secretary announced the £250 million winter access fund to enable GP practices to improve the availability of services to patients, where did he think those GPs would come from? Where is the magic locum tree? It is a seven-year pipeline to produce a GP. Does the Minister agree that rubbishing and attacking GPs is not going to attract medics to take up this profession?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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I think we all agree that we should appreciate the work that GPs did during Covid; they were often the front line. It is important that we continue to make sure that we recruit more GPs. Some 3,793 doctors—the highest ever number—accepted a place on GP training in 2020, so I do not recognise the criticism.

Health: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Debate between Lord Kamall and Baroness Thornton
Tuesday 12th October 2021

(10 months ago)

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Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the decision to delay the planned new guidelines on the diagnosis and management of ME/CFS, what assessment they have made of the ability of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to carry out its functions; and when they expect such guidance to be published.

Lord Kamall Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Kamall) (Con)
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NICE is seen as a world leader in the translation of research into authoritative, evidence-based clinical guidelines, and the Government have confidence in NICE’s ability to carry out its functions effectively. We all know that ME/CFS is a complex condition and, as we understand, a range of views about its management have been expressed during the development of the updated guidelines. To address as wide a range of views as possible, NICE is holding a round table with stakeholders next Monday to discuss these issues and will then take a decision on the next steps.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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First, of course, I welcome the Minister to his place and his job. There is nothing like hitting the ground running, since he has got to do three Questions in a row—that does not often happen. My Question was prompted by two important issues. First, public confidence in NICE’s methodology, and indeed NICE’s own confidence in its methodology, are vital. If the Minister says that the Government have confidence in NICE, it begs the question why the Government are not demanding that the ME/CFS guidance, three years in the writing and with patient support, is not being published immediately.

Secondly, I will quote from one of the many emails that I have had about this issue: “Thank you in advance for speaking up for ME patients. No treatment is better than harmful treatment. My daughter is now bedbound with severe ME due to GET”. GET is the current medical treatment regime for ME/CFS sufferers, which these guidelines say should be reformed. Did NICE come under pressure to pull these guidelines because of medical vested interests in the delivery of GET, particularly since they believe that this is the treatment for long Covid?

Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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First, I thank the noble Baroness for her warm welcome. I look forward to many exchanges with her and to learning from Ministers across the House and those who have been in the Department of Health and Social Care before. I know that the noble Baroness is recognised as a champion of the 250,000 people who are living with ME/CFS. As the noble Baroness knows, there are a number of complex symptoms, and experts disagree over the multifaceted way to address this.

As the noble Baroness knows, the NICE guidelines were delayed twice. They were first delayed because it wanted to make sure that it had taken on board all the various submissions that had been made; they were delayed a second time because, just as they were about to be announced, concerns were raised by clinicians and other stakeholders. If you are going to have guidelines, it is important that they are accepted and recognised by as wide a range of stakeholders as possible; otherwise, they might lose their authority.

We want to make sure that, whenever we have this situation and there are people with a range of views, we get them around a table and have a conversation, as common sense tells us, to see if we can agree on a way forward. I very much hope that, once we have had this round table, we will be able to agree a way forward.