Weekly political news round up – 12th September 2014

September 12, 2014 in News by Whitehouse

Around the sector

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones has announced the appointment of Vaughan Gething AM as Deputy Minister for Health, as part of a cabinet reshuffle.

The Department for Health and Department for Education have jointly published a guide for health professionals on the relevant aspects of the SEND code of practice. The guide highlights and clarifies areas of the Code of Practice which are relevant to health professionals, such as: joint working across education health and care, the local offer, health in early years and schools, and educational health and care (EHC) needs assessments and plans. While the guide places no extra responsibilities on settings and does not strengthen the Code, it is welcome as it should make it easier for health professionals to digest the new reforms and adds a little more detail on how the Government envisage the new SEND system to work.

Children and Young People Now has reported that the Council for Disabled Children (CDC) has called for local authorities to be given time to fully implement the special educational needs and disability reforms introduced in the Children and Families Act 2014. Despite the official start date of the reforms being 1st September 2014, Christine Lenehan, Director at the CDC, said that “there’s a good degree of basic awareness among local authorities, but they are at different stages of actually implementing [the reforms].

A Westminster Hall debate was held on Monday where MPs discussed the provision of nursery schools in the UK. Members of the Education Select Committee, including Labour MP Pat Glass and Conservative MP Stuart Graham, commented that successive governments had neglected nursery schools despite their effectiveness in admitting and integrating students with special educational needs.

Commons passes legislative reform on clinical commissioning group joint committees

The House of Commons has passed a legislative reform order to amend the NHS Act 2006 to allow clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to form a joint committee when exercising their commissioning functions jointly. The reforms also allow CCGs to exercise their commissioning functions jointly with NHS England, and to form a joint committee when doing so.

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb argued that the existing the lack of provision for CCGs to form joint committees prevented them from working in the most effective and efficient way. As things function currently, he highlighted that CCGs either had to delegate responsibility to a person attending a committee in common to make decisions, or they had to go back to their own CCG and then have a further committee to endorse the proposal that had been discussed at the committee in common. This was, he argued, complex, burdensome and expensive.

He also argued that the lack of power for CCGs to exercise their functions jointly with NHS England was causing inflexibility, noting that it had an effect on the commissioning of better out-of-hospital services.

Lamb stated that these reforms would not impact on the emphasis on local decision making as joint committees could decide that any agreements would require unanimity as opposed to a simple majority. Furthermore, he said that expected CCGs setting up joint committees would adhere to existing arrangements to involve patients and the public in plans about commissioning arrangements, as well as the requirement to specify in their constitutions the arrangements made for the discharge of their functions.

Shadow Care and Older People Minister Liz Kendall commented that CCGs have reported that they are coming under increasing pressure from NHS England and fear that their autonomy is being driven way. The reforms, she claimed, would force them into committees and taking decisions that they may not think are in the best interests of local people. She also raised questions about how joint committees would be accountable to patients, the public, local Healthwatch, and health and wellbeing boards.

Lamb responded that the legal duties of CCGs remain unchanged, and nothing is being done to put any pressure on a CCG to enter any arrangement with other CCGs or with NHS England. He said that any CCG feeling pressure is free to resist it, clarifying that joint committees were voluntary arrangements, and that if NHS England wanted to enter into a joint committee with a CCG, then the CCG would be free to reject the proposal.

Responding to the concerns about accountability, Lamb said that when they act in a joint committee, CCGs will be subject to the same duties as when they act on their own and the accountability that they face will be the same. He added that although there were concerns that joint committees might not meet in public, this does not mean that meetings will take place behind closed doors.

NHS Confederation launches manifesto for 2015 General Election

The NHS Confederation has published a manifesto outlining what it believes are the essential components of a new health and care system and how they might look and be experienced by people using and working in health and care, and the wider public. The 2015 Challenge Manifesto: a time for action, has been endorsed by 21 organisations, including the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Physicians.

Although the manifesto does not make any specific reference to continence – instead focusing on more general issues – it does stress the importance of self-managed care. It states that such care should be valued as much as care managed by healthcare professionals, adding that people with long-term conditions should feel confident and equipped  to play a far greater role in managing their own condition(s), empowered by new technologies and professionals who work in partnership with them.

The manifesto subsequently calls on all parties to commit to supporting a national sector-led programme to support health and social care organisations to adopt participation, personalised care and support planning, shared decision making and supported self-management approaches for all who would benefit.

Also discussed in the manifesto are areas such as the prevention of poor health, better mental health care services, more effective workforce support and planning, and the need for better funded services.