Session: 2013/2014

Date: 04 December 2013

Reference: NIA 146/11-15

ISBN: 978-0-339-60502-2

Committee: Health, Social Services and Public Safety

Report-on-the-Health-and-Social-Care-Amendment-Bill.pdf (1.28 mb)

Executive Summary

1. The purpose of the Bill is to make a small number of amendments to the Health and Social Care (Reform) Act (NI) 2009. The amendments are designed to correct oversights or anomalies contained in the original legislation, rather than to introduce any new policies.

2. The main amendments are in relation to the functions of one of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety’s arm’s-length bodies – the Business Services Organisation. The Bill will ensure that the Business Services Organisation has the legislative authority to provide support services to all the Department’s arm’s-length bodies, and to administer any health and social care functions on behalf of the Department. This is in line with the purpose for which the Business Services Organisation was originally established.

3. The other key amendment is in relation to the appointment of the Chairs to three of the Department’s arm’s-length bodies – the Health and Social Care Board, the Public Health Agency, and the Business Services Organisation. At present, the Department does not have the power to prescribe the conditions which Chairs of these bodies must satisfy, whereas it does have this power in relation to all its other arm’s-length bodies. This was an oversight when the original legislation was made, and the Bill seeks to correct the position.

4. All of the organisations which responded to the Committee’s call for evidence were in favour of the Bill, and there were no objections to any of the clauses.

5. The Committee was content that the Bill would serve to correct the anomalies contained in the Health and Social Care (Reform) Act (NI) 2009, and would result in more uniformity across the Department’s arm’s-length bodies.

Introduction

6. The Health and Social Care (Amendment) Bill (NIA 27/11-15) was referred to the Committee in accordance with Standing Order 33 on completion of the Second Stage of the Bill on 24 September 2013.

7. The Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety made the following statement under section 9 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998:

“In my view the Health and Social Care (Amendment) Bill would be within the legislative competence of the Northern Ireland Assembly.”

8. The main aim of the Bill is to amend the Health and Social Care (Reform) Act (NI) 2009 to reflect the purpose for which the Business Services Organisation (BSO) was established. The Bill will allow the Business Services Organisation to provide support services to all departmental arm’s-length bodies, and to administer any health and social care functions on behalf of the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

9. The Bill also makes a number of minor amendments to the Health and Social Care (Reform) Act (NI) 2009 to correct oversights made in the original legislation, in relation to the posts of Chair of the Health and Social Care Board, Chair of the Public Health Agency, and Chair of the Business Services Organisation.

10. During the period covered by this report, the Committee considered the Bill and related issues at eight meetings. The relevant extracts from the Minutes of Proceedings for these meetings are included at Appendix 1.

11. At its meeting on 25 September 2013 the Committee agreed a motion to extend the Committee Stage of the Bill to 11 December 2013. The motion to extend was supported by the Assembly on 7 October 2013.

12. The Committee had before it the Health and Social Care (Amendment) Bill (NIA 27/11-15) and the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum that accompanied the Bill. On referral of the Bill, the Committee wrote on 25 September 2013 to key stakeholders and inserted public notices in the Belfast Telegraph, Irish News, and News Letter seeking written evidence on the Bill by 15 October 2013.

13. A total of seven organisations responded to the request for written evidence and a copy of the submissions received by the Committee are included at Appendix 3.

14. Prior to the introduction of the Bill, the Committee took evidence from Departmental officials on the policy intentions of the legislation on 15 May 2013 and 12 June 2013. During this period of pre-introductory scrutiny, the Committee raised concerns over the proposals requiring that the Chairs of the Health and Social Care Board, Public Health Agency, and Business Services Organisation must satisfy prescribed conditions. The Committee was concerned that there was an attempt to prescribe new criteria in relation to who could apply for the position of Chair within the three Departmental arm’s-length bodies mentioned above.

15. The Committee was of the view that the appointment criteria for a Chair should be consistent across all the Department’s arm’s-length bodies. The Department explained that the proposal contained in the Bill (clause 3) was actually aimed at correcting an anomaly in the original legislation, rather than implementing a new policy. An oversight had been made when the Health and Social Care (Reform) Act (NI) 2009 was made, so that the Chair of the Health and Social Care Board, Chair of the Public Health Agency, and Chair of the Business Services Organisation, did not need to satisfy prescribed conditions. This was not the intention of the Department, as its view is that the Chairs of all its arm’s-length bodies must satisfy prescribed conditions.

16. Following the clarification provided by the Department on this matter, the Committee indicated that it was content with the policy intention of the Bill in this regard.

17. During Committee Stage of the Bill, the Committee took oral evidence from Departmental officials on 16 October 2013. The Committee discussed further the evidence received at its meetings on 6 November and 13 November 2013.

18. The Committee carried out clause by clause scrutiny of the Bill on 27 November 2013. At its meeting on 4 December 2013 the Committee agreed its report on the Bill and that it should be printed.

Consideration of the Bill

19. The Bill has five clauses and one Schedule.

20. The Committee considered written evidence received from seven stakeholders, and took oral evidence from Departmental officials.

Clause 1: Functions of RBSO: support services

21. This clause seeks to insert a provision at Section 15 of the Health and Social Care (Reform) Act (NI) 2009 to give the Business Services Organisation legal cover to provide support to the Department and the full range of the Department’s arm’s-length bodies.

22. The Health and Social Care (Reform) Act (NI) 2009 currently does not provide the Department with the power to direct the Business Services Organisation to provide support services to the Department, or to the following Departmental arm’s-length bodies – the Northern Ireland Social Care Council, the Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council for Nursing and Midwifery, and the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Board.

23. This clause also defines more accurately the counter-fraud support service provided by the Business Services Organisation.

24. The Health and Social Care Board and the Business Services Organisation in their written submissions welcomed this clause, in particular the clarification around the nature of the counter-fraud and probity services provided by Business Services Organisation.

25. The Committee raised concerns about whether the Business Services Organisation is currently providing services to arm’s-length bodies without legislative cover. Departmental officials confirmed that this indeed was the case, but stated that they have made additional arrangements in the meantime to help mitigate the risks associated with the lack of legislative cover.

Clause 2: Other functions of RBSO

26. Clause 2 provides a power to allow the Business Services Organisation to administer health and social care functions on behalf of the Department.

27. At present, the Business Services Organisation is only able to exercise Departmental functions that were exercisable by the Central Services Agency at its dissolution. It is not able to exercise any new functions of the Department. This clause provides for an amendment to Section 15 of the Health and Social Care (Reform) Act (NI) 2009, which will enable the Department to direct the Business Services Organisation to exercise any new functions with respect to the administration of health and social care.

28. The Committee did not receive any comments in relation to this clause.

Clause 3: Minor amendments

29. Clause 3 deals with a number or minor amendments to the conditions of membership of the Health and Social Care Board, the Public Health Agency and the Business Services Organisation.

30. At present, the Health and Social Care (Reform) Act (NI) 2009 provides the Department with the power to make subordinate legislation to prescribe conditions for persons appointed by the Department as members of the three arm’s-length bodies mentioned in the paragraph above, but does not include the Chairs.

31. This clause will amend sub-paragraph 3(3) of Schedules 1,2 and 3 of the Health and Social Care (Reform) Act (NI) 2009, to provide the Department with a power to make subordinate legislation to prescribe conditions for appointment for the Chair of the above three organisations in similar terms as the members.

32. The Health and Social Care Board, the Public Health Agency and the Business Services Organisation welcomed this clause. For example, the Business Services Organisation stated in its written submission:

 

“It is to be welcomed that Clause 3, Minor Amendments, should now enable DHSSPS to prescribe conditions for the appointment of Chairpersons of Arm’s Length Bodies which should deliver a consistent approach to all future appointments and reflect the public appointments process.”

 

Clause 4: Meaning of “the 2009 Act”

33. The Committee did not receive any comments in relation to this clause.

Clause 5: Short title

34. The Committee did not receive any comments in relation to this clause.

Schedule

35. The Schedule includes amendments that should have originally been included in Schedule 6 to the Health and Social Care (Reform) Act (NI) 2009.

36. In its written submission, the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) suggested simplifying the wording in relation to its title. However, during the oral evidence session with the Department, officials explained that the RQIA’s full title – Health and Social Care Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority – needed to be used in the Bill, as this is the organisation’s legal title. The Committee was content with the Department’s explanation on this issue.

Clause by Clause Consideration of the Bill

37. The Committee undertook its clause by clause scrutiny of the Bill on 27 November 2013 – see Minutes of Evidence in Appendix 2.

Clause 1: Functions of RBSO: support services

38. The Committee indicated it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 2: Other functions of RBSO

39. The Committee indicated it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 3: Minor amendments

40. The Committee indicated it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 4: Meaning of “the 2009 Act”

41. The Committee indicated it was content with the clause as drafted.

Clause 5: Short title

42. The Committee indicated it was content with the clause as drafted.

Schedule

43. The Committee indicated it was content with the schedule as drafted.

Long Title

44. The Committee indicated it was content with the Long Title as drafted.

Download the full report here.

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