Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services
The Health and Social Care (Quality and Engagement) (Wales) Bill was passed by the Senedd – formerly, the National Assembly for Wales – on 17 March 2020 and has now received Royal Assent.
This will support an ongoing, system-wide approach to quality improvement within the NHS; will further embed a culture of openness and honesty; and help drive continual public engagement in the design and delivery of health and social care services.
The Bill’s overriding aims – to improve the quality of health services and ensure the citizens of Wales are kept at the heart of ever-improving health and social care services – will be realised through its four main objectives:
- to greatly strengthen the existing duty of quality on NHS bodies and extend this to Welsh Ministers (in relation to their health service functions);
- to institute a duty of candour on NHS bodies in Wales (including primary care providers who provide NHS services), requiring them to be open and honest with patients and service users as soon as they are aware that things have gone wrong , or may have gone wrong, with their care or treatment;
- to strengthen the voice of citizens, by replacing Community Health Councils with a new, all-Wales Citizen Voice Body (‘the CVB’), to represent the views and interests of people across health and social care;
- to enable the appointment of vice chairs for NHS trusts, bringing them into line with health boards.
Stage 3 amendments
A number of amendments to the Bill were passed on 10 March 2020, to help sharpen our initial proposals and add further vigour. These included:
- Requirements that, within its statement of policy, the CVB specifies how it intends to represent the interests of people in all parts of Wales; will be accessible to people throughout Wales; and how its staff, and any others acting on its behalf, are able to engage effectively with people throughout Wales.
- Duties on the CVB to have regard to the importance of ensuring, where appropriate, that there is face-to-face engagement between its staff, or any others acting on its behalf, and individuals when seeking the views of the public and when providing complaints advice and assistance.
- A Code of Practice on requests for access to premises by the CVB for the purpose of seeking individuals’ views about health and social services.
- A common duty on the CVB, NHS bodies and local authorities to make arrangements to co-operate with each other, to promote awareness of the CVB and support the Body in seeking the views of individuals.
- Duties on the Welsh Ministers to issue statutory guidance to Local Health Boards, NHS Trusts and Special Health Authorities in Wales regarding the duty of quality and its associated reporting requirements.
Officials have updated the Explanatory Memorandum, Regulatory Impact Assessment and Explanatory Notes for the Bill, to reflect all changes made at Stage 3. These will be published on the Welsh Government website next week.
Having received Royal Assent, the Bill now becomes The Health and Social Care (Quality and Engagement) (Wales) Act 2020 which I hope may be implemented within two years. More detail on this considerable and wide-ranging work will follow, as soon as it is possible to do so in the light of the current focus and urgent priority in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
At this time I’d like to acknowledge and thank everyone for their valuable contributions to the scrutiny of the Bill; for providing constructive challenge and support to develop our thinking and approach; and for lending your expertise to help refine and sharpen our initial proposals. As we move towards the implementation phase, I want to assure you that we remain committed to working with you and others, including citizen representatives, to successfully implement the provisions.