Care Bill passes Lords


The government has survived two votes to see the Care Bill pass through the House of Lords for what will most likely be the final time before becoming an Act.

The bill will now return to the House of Commons after three minor changes were made by the government as peers considered MPs' amendments on 7 May 2014.

The government saw off an attempt by Labour peer Lord Turnburg to limit the sharing of patient data to biomedical and health research purposes.

At report stage, MPs agreed to a government amendment specifying that, NHS England's record-sharing scheme, should only be used "for the purposes of the provision of health care or adult social care". However, Lord Turnburg felt that this definition left "too many questions for interpretation".

The peer warned that the definition could lead to many counter-intuitive readings, including allowing food manufacturers to use the data "in their marketing campaigns for so-called health foods" while at the same time placing limits on the type of scientific research that may be carried out.

Peers rejected the amendment by 193 votes to 169 after Health Minister Earl Howe told peers the government believed the current definition would allow data to be shared amongst the "broadest range" of research bodies, and only for "health and social care research and wider public heath purposes".

Peers also rejected Liberal Democrat peer Lord Owen's motion to hand over powers for managing patient data to the Independent Information Governing Advisory Panel, which he explained was an attempt to restore public trust in how patient data is handled.

Lord Owen, who is a former neuroscientist, told peers that trust in protection of confidential data in England was at an all-time low due to breaches that resulted in the releasing of patient data and the discovery that hospital data had been sold to companies without sufficient oversight.

Tabling the amendment, Lord Owen told the House without "confidence and the free exchange of information in the world of science data, research will be very badly damaged".

Despite gaining opposition support the amendment was defeated by 259 votes to 165.

Government changes

Peers accepted a minor government change to the bill to clarify a previous amendment to protect NHS services in an area where a failing NHS Trust has gone into special administration.

Earl Howe told the House the changes would ensure that Trust Special Administrators were only used "when all other suitable process to develop sustainable good health had been exhausted" and to "safeguard taxpayer funding and the interest of the public".

Two further technical amendments, which would ensure that secondary legislation to set up an appeals process for decisions taken by local authorities on arrangement of care would be debated in parliament, were passed without debate.

Earlier in the day, the government accepted an amendment from crossbench peer Lord Low of Dalston, that would require social care providers to adhere to the European Convention on Human Rights even when they are not arranged by a local authority.

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