If it already feels like total immersion in the Health and Social Care Bill I cannot imagine what it will be like when we actually get to consider the blessed thing on the floor of the House. The whole world seems to feel the need to send briefing about the Bill
Yesterday for example, I met health inequalities advisors who are about to lose their jobs as the Department of Health closes the Health Inequalities Unit. It does sometimes – in fact often, feel like anything that went before must by definition have been wrong. These very dedicated NHS employees are only concerned that their experience and work in building up the knowledge and practical lessons about how to reduce health inequalities is not completely lost as new systems emerge. I fear the worst. This is definitely the down side of being in Opposition – the unthinking assumption that if the Labour Government did it, it must be junked.
One hopes in the House of Lords that a more considered view might be taken – and we shall see as the Health Bill progresses through our House.
We have a Labour Health and Social Care group, and we also met yesterday and had an excellent discussion about the forthcoming Bill, led by the very talented Liz Kendal MP who is a shadow minister and part of the Opposition team in the Commons. Her analysis of the issues and her description of the Government floundering in Commons Standing Committee were greatly appreciated. I feel very fortunate to have such a talented and committed group of colleagues to support our Frontbench here in the Lords.
I know that I am going to become a complete Health Bill anorak partly because I have now started dreaming about the Bill. Sad really.
On Tuesday we held our 5th All Peers Seminar in preparation for the Bill. This series of seminars seem to have been very successful is teasing out some of the main issues that colleagues will need to address and have certainly been well attended. The Presidents of the Royal Colleges of GPs, Surgeons and Physicians were a very impressive bunch, but it is shame that the Nurses were not able to be there as I suspect they would have brought a quite different perspective to the discussion.
Despite the views of Baroness Murphy in her blog of 22nd March – the speakers for the Seminars have been very balanced. With the exception of the Royal College Presidents, there has been an excellent and usually very senior policy lead from the Department of Health on every panel, then in addition an informed commentator like the Nuffield Foundation or Kings Fund and one other. The idea is to inform and raise questions. Perhaps it’s the questions – of which there are many – the noble lady objects to.
Today David Behan from the DH is leading a discussion about Social Care and the
bill, with input from a LGA speaker and people who deliver social care. Very balanced, but I expect some trenchant views and searching questions will be asked.