The Health and Care Bill had its second reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday, with Lord Simon Stevens calling for substantial amendments to the legislation. Lord Stevens is the former NHS Chief Executive (from 2014 to 2021) and was conferred a Life Peerage this year. His title is now ‘Lord Stevens of Birmingham’, and this week saw his maiden speech taking place within the House of Lords.
During the second reading session of the Bill, Lord Stevens said the legislation was not a ‘cure-all’, but that it would remove legal and bureaucratic barriers to more joined-up care. GPs, mental health and community services would be planned, funded and provided by Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) under the Bill. All Clinical Commissioning Groups will be disbanded and 42 new ICBs established across England.
The Bill has received criticism over private companies sitting on ICBs, leading to creeping privatisation of the NHS and supply allocations. Lord Stevens addressed these concerns, saying they were ‘a little wide of the mark’. Safeguards around transparency of private sector procurement should be strengthened by the Government, the peer recommended.
Lord Stevens attacked the lack of a detailed workforce plan, and backed an amendment proposed by House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee chair Jeremy Hunt “which would force the Government to publish independent workforce projections biennially”.
The former NHS chief told the House of Lords that provisions should be strengthened in relation to mental health and social care. Regarding increased powers for the Secretary of State laid out in the Bill, originally inserted by former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, said “the Bill should not “centralise” decisions “best made locally”.
Lord Stevens concluded that the Bill had considerable merit, calling it ‘pragmatic, modest and evolutionary.’