4 March 2022

Debates on the Health and Care Bill took place this week in the House of Lords.

The following amendments were discussed – babies, children and young people, workforce planning, annual rehabilitation plan and membership of Integrated Care Boards.

Following the RCSLT’s influencing work at Committee Stage, ahead of the Report Stage of the Health and Care Bill in the House of Lords, the RCSLT worked with partners in the Community Rehabilitation Alliance (CRA) and the Allied Health Professions Federation (AHPF) on letters to the government.

The CRA letter (PDF) called for the Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) to produce an annual rehabilitation plan.

The AHPF letter (PDF) called on the government to maximise the contribution of allied health professionals by ensuring that their skills, knowledge and experience are included on ICBs.

The RCSLT also worked closely with Lord Shinkwin, one of our Honorary Vice-Presidents, Baroness Whitaker, one of the Vice-Chairs of the APPG on Speech and Language Difficulties, and Lord Bradley, one of our Honorary Fellows, providing them with briefing on relevant amendments (PDF).

We also sent briefing material to peers who had tabled those amendments, including Baroness Finlay of Llandaff and Baroness Hollins.

Babies, children and young people

Lord Shinkwin spoke in favour of government amendments requiring an ICB to set out any steps that it proposes to take to address the particular needs of children and young people under the age of 25.

He also spoke on the use of a single identifier for children and young people and in favour of an amendment tabled by Baroness Hollins on accountability for babies, children and young people.

Responding for the government, Lord Kamall said that the government will engage with the RCSLT on the guidance to the Bill.

Lord Kamall said: “the government recognise the importance of communications needs, and the important part that they play in children’s development. We will work with stakeholders on the development of guidance, and ensure that we engage with the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.”

Baroness Hollins also referenced the RCSLT and highlighted disabled children and children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Workforce planning

Baroness Whitaker and Lord Bradley spoke in support of an amendment to improve workforce planning. They highlighted how workforce planning in England for speech and language therapists is not fit for purpose.

They quoted material from the RCSLT briefing and highlighted that the UK government and the NHS Long Term Plan themselves recognises that speech and language therapy is a shortage profession.

The government was defeated on an amendment calling for a workforce plan so the issues will be debated again at a future date.

Annual rehabilitation plan

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff tabled an amendment calling on ICBs to produce an annual rehabilitation plan. In her speech, she referenced speech and language therapists.

Responding for the government, Lord Kamall confirmed that non-NHS services are part of the functions of ICBs. He also gave strong statements on the role of ICBs in relation to rehabilitation.

Lord Kamall said: “Under the existing Bill provisions, every ICB will be required to provide and improve rehabilitation services as part of its duty to provide a comprehensive health service. As an added layer of scrutiny, ICBs must publish an annual review detailing how they have discharged this function.”

Membership of Integrated Care Boards

In a debate on membership of ICBs, Lord Bradley argued that their skills mix must include allied health professionals and specifically referenced speech and language therapists.

Baroness Whitaker also spoke in favour of ICBs including the expertise of speech and language therapists.

Responding for the government, Lord Kamall referred to the letter from the AHPF.

Next steps

Following conclusion of the Report Stage, the RCSLT will work with partner organisations on other relevant influencing opportunities, especially in relation to workforce planning.