“Moved By Earl Howe
That the Bill be read a second time.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, this is a Bill of profound importance for the quality and delivery of health and care in England, for patients and for all those who care for them. As such it has been, quite rightly, the subject of intense scrutiny, not only in another place, but also more widely. Indeed, the intensity of the spotlight directed at its content over the last few months is borne out by the number of your Lordships who wish to speak today and tomorrow. I look forward to the debate ahead of us.
In approaching this Bill, I believe it is instructive to look backwards to its roots as well as forward to what it seeks to achieve. In opposition, the two coalition parties asked themselves the same simple question: “How can we make the NHS better?”. In asking that question we were clear about several things. We were clear that the founding principles of the NHS-that it should be a comprehensive service, free at the point of use, regardless of ability to pay, and funded from general taxation-should remain sacrosanct. We were also clear that we should reject any system that discriminated between rich and poor. The NHS should aspire to the highest standards of service for all our citizens, but in seeking ways to make the health service better, it was necessary to identify the challenges that it faces. What are they?
The first, and most obvious, is rising demand for healthcare from a growing and ageing population and the increase in long-term conditions. The second is the rising expectations of patients about what should be on offer to them from a health service in the 21st century, including new drugs and technologies. The third is the financial challenge-the inexorably rising costs of providing services against an increasingly constrained budget.
Two key principles emerge from this analysis: the need for maximum efficiency in the way the health budget is spent; and the need to make the service patient-centred. For many years, politicians have spoken of the NHS as a patient-centred service, but how can a service be truly patient-centred if decisions about the treatments and pathways of care that are available to patients are taken at several removes from those who know best what the needs of patients are-namely, the patients themselves and the healthcare professionals who look after them?….”