Health and Care Bill: Bishop of London speaks in favour of amendments on palliative care

On 1st March 2022, the House of Lords debated amendments to the Health and Care Bill in the first day of the report stage. The Bishop of London spoke in favour of an amendment regarding palliative care, and urged that this care should be delivered with consistency:

The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, I declare my interests in the register. I join in thanking the Government for having listened in Committee. I hope that this will make a difference not just to the lives of those whose lives are shorter but also their families, so it is very welcome. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, but also to my friend, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle, who put his name to Amendment 17.

As I say, I welcome this amendment. As the chair of the UK Commission on Bereavement, I have been reminded recently of the inconsistency of palliative care, which other noble Lords have spoken of this evening. It affects not only those who require palliative care but also their family and friends, and it leaves a legacy into bereavement, which we should not underestimate. I too was reassured to hear the Minister say that palliative care must be commissioned, but I share again the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. In Amendment 16, the word “appropriate” is used, and it is not quite the same thing. Could the Minister reassure the House about the Government’s expectations regarding the nature of palliative care services that the ICBs will commission? How will they ensure that that is delivered in a way that creates consistency? It is care that is rightly deserved by people in our communities, which also reflects the skill and hard work of our palliative care practitioners.


Extracts from the speeches that followed:

Baroness Merron (Lab): I welcome the government amendment in this area and, in so doing, I simply say to the Minister that I hope the Government have heard the number of questions asked today. Clearly, there is concern about the words “appropriate” and “reasonable”, and I will add a few questions to those already put to explore that further. I am sure the Minister understands that noble Lords are simply trying to ensure that what is intended will actually be delivered.

Can the Minister confirm how the Government’s expectations will be conveyed to ICBs, and how they will understand what is expected of them in terms of the nature of palliative care services that they would be required to commission? It would also be helpful if he could commit to providing a definition of “specialist palliative care” services, referring to the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, so that we can see a consistent standard in provision of services across the country. My final question is: can the Minister confirm that it is the Government’s intention to communicate to all ICBs that they should fulfil the true requirements of this amendment, and can he tell your Lordships’ House how this will be monitored?

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and other noble Lords have made it clear that we would like the matter settled by the amendment, but it is not entirely. I hope that the Government will not lose the opportunity to really make the transformation so that we can all expect, and have, a good death, as we would want to have a good life.

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