The changes that we are discussing today are technical, but important. The creeping fragmentation and privatisation of our NHS, where more and more services are contracted out to unaccountable profit-making companies, has occurred precisely because of such obscure, technical changes.
My constituents need integrated care services across different organisations, as well as more preventive health and public health action. That is urgent, it should be a priority, and there should be legislation and full debate to make it happen. Currently, just 54% of my constituents—barely more than half—receive the breast cancer screenings they need. We have lower rates of physical activity than the national and London averages, as well as higher rates of smoking, and 44% of local children leave primary school obese. If the legislation we are talking about were just about joining up care for patients, creating genuine efficiency by avoiding duplication of services, or enabling patients to receive effective care closer to home in the community, rather than in hospital, I would absolutely welcome it.
(intervention from Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Health Secretary)
My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech, and I hope she continues to make an excellent speech. On the point about what is happening in east London, there is a very good integrated programme there for dealing with diabetes. The point is this: there are very good examples of integration taking place across the country without the need for this contract, which could usher in greater privatisation.
(end of intervention)
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I believe, and I know he believes, that these changes are important and should not be done by statutory instrument. The goal of healthcare integration can and should be pursued with the full scrutiny provided by primary legislation.
Locally, these plans have raised huge concerns. Currently, Newham is in a sustainability and transformation partnership with seven other boroughs—Havering, Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham, Waltham Forest, Tower Hamlets, Hackney and the City of London. Those are really very different places, not only politically but in terms of age, ethnicity and levels of deprivation. Any integration plan that covers that wide an area will be incredibly difficult to get right.
I understand that the current thinking is more about dividing that eight-borough STP into three new integrated care systems, or ICSs. Newham will be lumped together with Waltham Forest and Tower Hamlets. I am very worried that pushing these areas together, with one extremely overstretched budget, will result in money being taken away from my constituents in Newham, whose needs are extremely high. If the Government were talking about enabling greater integration at local authority level, where democratically elected councillors could be properly involved, the issue would not be that much of a concern.
To be frank, I have absolutely no confidence that there would even be a proper consultation about integrating Newham into a three-borough ICS. I know that that is what local leaders expect only because I asked them about it before the debate. I am told that not one health body locally actually wanted to sign up to the STP—not one local body. But that did not matter to those who are really in control, so it was just put in place anyway as the East London Health & Care Partnership. This supposed partnership was given an incredibly complicated governance structure. Again, no one actually wanted it. That was not because health bodies do not want to collaborate; it was because this Government’s failed reforms do not have the confidence of clinicians.
There are many basic questions that need to be answered and that have not been. I have five for tonight. One, how do the Government plan to prevent fragmentation, given that there are so many different ways that these arrangements could be made? Two, how will existing borough-level partnerships slot into these new structures? Three, how are dedicated NHS staff, elected local representatives or even—horror!—patients themselves going to have control over how these structures are implemented, which areas are joined together and which services are included? Who will have that control?
Four, once one of these integrated bodies has been set up, what actual accountability will there be? As we know, public health and social care services are currently in the hands of councils. Even beyond that, many health and wellbeing objectives are the statutory responsibility of local councils too. Therein lies accountability to local people, but it is totally unclear to me how councillors will be able to hold the new ICPs to account in turn. If those new bodies are going to be responsible for making decisions, they should have to be transparent and accountable. I am not at all opposed to the integration of services, but we must create more accountability, and not risk losing the little that is currently there.
My fifth and final question is this. How will the Government guarantee to my constituents that this change will not become another back-door privatisation? How can they reassure me that the enormous, inefficient, profiteering “health maintenance organisation” monsters that exist in the United States will not be given a foothold here in exchange for, say, a trade deal post Brexit? This is what I find most offensive about the statutory instrument. Ministers have been offered the chance, time and again, to say that private companies will not be able to act as integrated care providers, and will not be able to bid for the huge contracts that will be created. But I have heard no good reason why the Government will not make those commitments.