Philip Dunne welcomes the Health and Care Bill which will put into law the closer working developed between the NHS and social care provision during the pandemic.
I am pleased to support the Bill. It is the first significant reorganisation of healthcare in recent years, and only the second since the Conservatives came into office following 13 years of Labour Administrations who reorganised the health services nine times, so we should not be taking lessons from the Opposition on the timing or the fact of putting things right.
The Bill is very substantial legislation that learns lessons from the way in which the NHS has had to work during the covid pandemic. In particular, the flow-through of patients discharged out of the acute sector as a result of much closer working with social care and local authorities is an integral part of creating the new integrated care boards. I very much welcome the fact that they are being established on a statutory footing and that there will be representation from local authorities and a role for health and wellbeing boards to provide local oversight. That is an essential step to allow the healthcare economy across our communities to collaborate effectively, and to remove some of the artificial barriers.
I will touch briefly on three other points. On the measures proposed for reconfiguration, we in Shropshire have been at the wrong end of a protracted reconfiguration process for our acute hospitals. Streamlining the process by which decisions are made will benefit patients. In Shropshire, it has taken several years to reach the point at which decisions can be made, and at every stage obstacles are put in place that add to delay and uncertainty. As a consequence of that, it is hard to attract staff to a system not working as well as it should, and the system has gone into special measures. The provisions to streamline difficult decisions are therefore very welcome.
Secondly, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Jeremy Hunt), the Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said, the Bill is somewhat light on workforce, but it does include key measures to speed up the ability of physicians trained in other systems to be welcomed into the NHS or to return to the NHS and if they have retired. I urge Ministers in Committee to look carefully at what can be done—
Order. I am afraid we are under huge time constraints.