Peers defeat Government on demand for mental health voice on integrated care boards

Peers have defeated the Government in demanding that powerful new care bodies have a mental health “voice”.

The House of Lords backed by 162 votes to 147, majority 15, a move to ensure the make-up of integrated care boards (ICBs), which will have responsibility for NHS functions and budgets under a major overhaul.

It came as the upper chamber continued its detailed scrutiny of the Government’s flagship Health and Care Bill.

Proposing the legislative change to guarantee a place for at least one mental health expert on each organisation, Labour former minister Lord Bradley said: “ICBs are the crucial forum where decisions will be made about millions of pounds of NHS funding as well as choices about priorities and system changes.

“So membership of ICBs really matter from day one. It cannot be left to chance or adjusted inconsistently over subsequent years.”

He added: “I remain concerned that if the voice of mental health is not in the room from the inception of ICBs, there is a danger that the very powerful interests of acute trusts will dominate the agenda and could lead to undermining the not inconsiderable progress towards parity of esteem between mental and physical health.”

The Lords backed the measure despite a Government proposal to require the care boards to keep the experience of members under review and tackle any shortcomings.

The Government also suffered a separate defeat, with peers supporting by 175 to 161, majority 14, a bid to ensure conflict of interest rules for ICBs are also applied to commissioning sub-committees, in order to close “a loophole”.

Labour frontbencher Baroness Thornton (pictured) said: “This is not an academic argument. We have been told that much of the ICBs’ commissioning role will be delegated for example to place-based committees. Those place-based committees will be commissioning NHS services.”

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