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Risk of 'paralysis' as legislation enters House of Lords
Our briefing for peers ahead of a major parliamentary debate on 11 October, at which nearly 100 peers are expected to contribute, makes clear that it supports a number of the key principles in the Bill.
We are unconvinced that the reforms, as currently constructed, will deliver a coherent system that will enable the NHS to tackle its most significant challenges. We believe the reforms do not directly address the financial pressures and that the jury is out on whether they will improve care for patients.
Calling on peers to get fundamentals right
We want peers to make sure they get the fundamentals right in areas such as the accountability of the key players in the healthcare system including the Secretary of State. And we want them to take practical steps that would help the NHS deal with its most pressing problems.
Mike Farrar, NHS Confederation chief executive, said: "There is support for some of the principles in the Bill but at a practical level it has few enthusiasts and we need the Lords to help give the reforms a fighting chance of success.
"They still need to sort out some of the fundamentals - the accountability of all the key players in the system must be crystal clear, not least of the Secretary of State. And we also need peers to get beneath the surface of the legislation and give us the practical tools we need to tackle the major problems we face.
"We need the NHS to be given the freedom it needs to tackle its financial pressures and deal with variations in quality of care. I worry that it will end up paralysed by fuzzy structures and decision making processes, with few powers to take charge of its destiny. It is still unclear that the NHS reforms do what has been said on the tin.“
Getting real on big issues
Mr Farrar added: "We need to get real about the big issues if the NHS is to avoid falling into serious financial difficulty while also improving quality of care. We need a Bill that helps us make radical changes so we can concentrate services and offer more care in the community. The evidence shows this can mean better care for patients. We can then also shut down unwanted capacity and make savings.
Avoiding red tape
"Up and down the country, NHS leaders have plans to meet this challenge. These plans need proper and robust scrutiny but it will serve nobody if good projects get strangled by red tape. The Lords should make sure the system is improved so consultation on major change becomes more straightforward. This means defined time limits for how long decisions can take and clear roles for organisations involved."
What we're calling for
We believe the reforms must:
support a speedy process for making decisions about reconfiguration
ensure clinical commissioning groups have freedom to make decisions - clinical senates should not veto commissioners' plans
specify precisely the roles and responsibilities of all the various bodies in the system in order to minimise confusion.
Our briefing also raises points about:
achieving the right the balance of power between the National Commissioning Board and local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs)
clarifying that decisions on competition, choice and integration will be made locally in the interests of patients, within a national framework
championing rather than denigrating the role of NHS leaders, especially for CCGs which will need adequate leadership resources
making sure the whole system works by being clear about intervention when quality and finances slip so as to prevent major failure.
During the last few months we have also met a number of key peers and we will continue to do so before Committee stage.
Recently, we have met: Deputy director of policy Jo Webber will also brief crossbench peers at a Managers in Partnership (MiP) event at the House of Lords on 10 October.
Keeping members informed
We will keep members up-to-date with the Bill’s progress in the Lords and any significant changes that are made.
Recently, we have met:
Deputy director of policy Jo Webber will also brief crossbench peers at a Managers in Partnership (MiP) event at the House of Lords on 10 October.