Bill Watch: Who will be scrutinising the Health and Care Bill?
The Health and Care Bill has generated widespread coverage as the first piece of health legislation since the Lansley reforms of 2011.
As the Bill reaches its Committee stage, there is considerable opportunity for amendments to be tabled to shape, refine and improve it.
But how will the group of MPs sitting on the Health and Care Bill Committee, with their varying backgrounds, interpret, deliberate, and amend this landmark legislation? Alongside some old hands returning to see through this latest piece of health legislation, the Committee includes fresh faces who have expressed interests in adult social care, maternal health, workforce, and of course, the success of ICSs.
Discussion around the shift towards more integrated care systems (ICS) and the strengthening of power in Whitehall will no doubt dominate much of the discussion, together with consideration as to whether the Bill will complete its passage in time for ICSs to be up and running. Indeed, one Committee member has already signalled their intention to vote against the increased powers of the Secretary of State.
Unsurprisingly, a strong majority of the Committee have previously expressed interest in how the increased statutory standings of ICSs will function and we will likely understand more of the detail and their implications as the discussions progress. It is also worth looking out for the nuanced experiences, activity and personal interests of the committee members, which will be crucial in understanding who are the ‘ones to watch’.
Five members of the committee previously voted against the Bill on party lines. Approaching the Bill constructively with a view to its improvement, particularly in areas such as the provision of mental health services, to the authority of ICS Boards, will be key considerations.
Pointers to the areas of focus for the Labour Party might be found in the work of their Policy Commissions, which have so far considered: The impact of COVID-19 (including mental health); securing a sustainable future for social care; supporting well-being and tackling mental ill-health; tackling health inequalities; and recruiting, retaining and supporting the workforce.
One of the sustained criticisms of the Bill has been the lack of a solution to the funding of social care. Whilst its omission is notable, it was not a surprise, and this is unlikely to feature significantly in terms of tangible amendments at Committee. MHP have researched the members of the Committee, to understand more about how their interests and backgrounds might inform their approach over the coming months.
As we continue to follow the Bill as it progresses through Parliament, we will look to provide analysis of the evolving process and its implications for those working in the sector.
We hope this analysis of the Health and Social Care Bill Committee provides you with further insight as you continue your engagement programmes for 2021.