Thank you for contacting me about clause 119.
I am proud of the fact that we have been able to protect and increase spending on the NHS, given the very difficult public expenditure position we inherited. This has enabled new services to be provided, for example, at Andover Hospital, and progress to be made in reducing waiting times. However, in extreme circumstances, when a Trust goes into administration, it is necessary to give the administrator enough power to take the difficult decisions necessary to ensure patients get safe care. This clause makes vital changes to the Trust Special Administrator regime (TSA) that will help protect hospital services and save patients’ lives.
To clarify, the TSA regime, introduced by Labour in 2009, provides a time-limited, clear and transparent way of dealing with local health services which are badly failing. This is not, happily, the position in North West Hampshire. This process is used only as a last resort, in the most urgent cases when all other efforts to ensure safe, effective and affordable local services have been unsuccessful and lives are potentially being put at risk. This regime has only ever been used twice (Mid-Staffordshire and South London) - exceptional cases where vast sums of taxpayers’ money were being spent on bailing out failed hospitals or where patients were suffering from dangerously poor care.
Turning things around in these most severe of cases requires that the administrators can take a look at the wider health services locally. The Government’s view is that the original legislation was always intended to allow the administrators to look at the wider health economy in this way. This is the only sensible way to resolve problems for local patients.
We have a national health service, comprised of interdependent hospitals, and so it cannot be right that the administrators are currently only able to look at single failing providers in isolation. This Government therefore introduced clause 119 to the Care Bill. Without it, improving patient care and preserving hospital services will be much harder.
Claims that hospitals will be closed without consultation are nothing more than irresponsible and opportunistic scaremongering. The NHS is currently turning round a number of hospitals in special measures, many of which have had deep seated problems for years. Clause 119 ensures that commissioners of other affected trusts would have every opportunity to make their views known. It also lengthens the time the administrator has to produce their draft report and extends the formal consultation on the recommendations, crucially giving more time for involvement of the public and all key stakeholders.
It is important to restate that this clause only applies to the administrator regime which is only used as a last resort in the most serious of circumstances. In these cases, it is vital to allow a TSA to look at the wider local health system, when that is necessary to address serious problems at other hospitals. In such situations, lives are put at risk if the problem is not dealt with swiftly and effectively. We need to have a regime of last resort that is able to address these problems in the interests of the taxpayer, patients and the public, rather than simply ignoring problems or bailing out failed and unsafe services.
The emails I was sent asked me to support Paul Burstow’s amendment on this subject. Paul was satisfied by the assurances he was given by Ministers in the debate and in the event did not vote for the amendment.