House of Lords report stage

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On Friday 12th December 2014 the House of Lords report stage for the Medical Innovation Bill took place.

The Bill has now moved through to a third reading stage.

Watch the full debate here

→READ: The debate in Hansard

→READ: The Bill as amended in report stage

→READ: All the documents relating to the Bill and the report stage debate

A few highlighted extracts :

Lord Saatchi (Con): Before I start, I will take a moment to echo what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, said. He described the discussions about the Bill at all its stages as being your Lordships’ House at its best. I so agree.

I said in the debate in the Moses Room last week in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, that the experience of watching your Lordships’ House debate and discuss the Bill is, as far as I am concerned, a tremendous privilege to be able to hear the greatest legal and medical minds in the country at work.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, for saying that there had been a constructive process of listening to Peers’ views as expressed in Committee. I am also grateful for the view expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler, that the Bill team and the Department of Health have behaved constructively since Committee.

I have really been only a witness to the toing and froing between Peers whose views were expressed in Committee and the Department of Health through our own Bill team.

It will not come as any surprise to your Lordships that this has been a really admirable process of the officials and the legislation department in the Department of Health listening carefully and trying to respond, and I certainly have appreciated that hugely. I know your Lordships will agree.

I also thank my noble friend the Minister for her clarification of the Government’s position on many of these amendments.


Baroness Wheeler (Lab): My Lords, as this is the first contribution from the Front Bench to the discussion of today’s amendments, perhaps I may again place on the record our support for the key principles and intent of the Bill.

As we stress, Labour has always strongly supported efforts to bring innovative treatments to patients faster, and we underline the need for a major effort by government to address the barriers and bureaucracy that prevent progress being made and ensure that innovations are rapidly transcribed into practice.

The noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, recently held a short debate in the Moses Room on the impact of innovation and research strategies on health improvement. It provided an excellent overview of the key issues, the progress being made, and the problems still to be addressed.

We are keen to ensure that the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, is seen in the context of this wider, bigger picture.

I know that the noble Lord accepts that his Bill will be one measure in the broader landscape of what needs to be done.

Along with my noble friend Lord Turnberg, I am also grateful to the noble Lord for the efforts he has made to address the issues and concerns raised by noble Lords across the House.

In Committee we underlined our broad support for the changes—the “Sir Bruce Keogh amendments”, as they are now known—which have been made to ensure patient safety and safeguarding.

We also found the round-table discussions for Peers that were organised by the noble Lord following our suggestions in Committee very valuable and useful.

Again, we are broadly supportive of the new amendments he has brought forward today, which are the result of the discussions, on emergency care, on the recording of key information in the notes of the patient receiving the treatment, on excluding cosmetic surgery from the scope of the Bill, and on ensuring the preservation of the existing law about clinical trials and other forms of research.

Lord Woolf (CB): The progress of the Bill has been a remarkable example of this House at its very best.

The Bill has been very carefully scrutinised by people who have immense knowledge of the areas covered in the Bill.

That does not mean that anything said by a particular Member of the House with undoubted expertise in this area is necessarily right in this matter.

As is the case with many Bills, sometimes more than one profession can be involved.

I suggest that this is an example where two professions, which in the past have been guilty at times of excessive conservatism, are involved and have been loud in some of the things that they have had to say.

The other profession of which I am thinking is my own; lawyers are not always celebrated for their innovative approach.

They have improved from the situation of not so long ago. They are more ready to accept change—indeed, they have been forced to accept it—than they willingly would have done in the early days when I was practising.

I have been criticised in letters I have received in a way in which I perhaps am not accustomed for my involvement in the Bill sponsored by the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi.

Those who have asked me to identify cases by name and reference so that they can analyse the cases and show how they do not help any particular argument might be relieved to hear me say that if they want to know where I come from, I wrote a little book called The Pursuit of Justice.

I focused on the medical profession at that time because I found that its conservatism was interfering with the pursuit of justice.

As far as victims were concerned, one of the most difficult areas of litigation in this country was clinical negligence cases.

Both sides in those cases were put into great difficulty because of that conservatism. On one side were the patients who often wanted the doctors to say sorry. On the other side were the doctors who felt that they could not say sorry because if they did they would be admitting liability for negligence. So the two never met—and that, I am afraid, can happen.

I listened very carefully to the graphic examples given by the noble Lord, Lord Winston, of where he thought that the Bill could be a problem.

In his first example, he said that there was a difference of opinion between his anaesthetist, who did not think that an unusual and innovative form of intervention was appropriate, and the noble Lord, who thought that it was appropriate in the circumstances.

Happily, he took the initiative and acted in an innovative way. But if one pauses and thinks about what would have been the position under the Bill as it is at present, would it have made the situation more difficult or would it have alleviated the situation?

I suggest it is quite clear that it would have done neither.


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