HL Deb 16 April 2002 vol 633 cc150-1WA
Lord Brookman

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made with the quinquennial review of the defence medical agencies. [HL3514]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach)

As my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr Moonie) indicated in his Written Answer in another place on 15 December 2000 (Official Report, cols. 274–275W) to my honourable friend the Member for Gedling (Mr Coaker), the review has covered the functions and organisation of the Ministry of Defence's four medical agencies—the Defence Secondary Care Agency (DSCA), the Defence Dental Agency (DDA), the Defence Medical Training Organisation (DMTO) and the Medical Supplies Agency (MSA)—and other aspects of medical provision. He announced the results of the initial phase of work in his Written Answer in another place of 17 October 2001 (Official Report, cols. 1223–24W) to my honourable friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr Wright).

The review team has now completed its work and we have placed a summary of its conclusions in the Library of the House. In brief, the main points are that:

  • there must be a clearer focus on delivery of the two key defence medical outputs—deployable operational medical capability, and timely appropriate healthcare for service personnel;
  • accountability for the delivery of these outputs by both central and single-service authorities must be defined unambiguously, as part of a clear tri-service strategy and plan;
  • the Surgeon General (SG), working to the Vice Chief of Defence Staff, will be empowered to undertake effective oversight and direction of the DMS in meeting the key output requirements, including those elements which remain under single-service management;
  • a stronger partnership will be established between the DMS and the National Health Service;
  • management capabilities throughout the DMS will be strengthened, drawing on expertise from the parent services and, where relevant, the NHS.

The Defence Medical Services will be re-aligned and restructured to focus more effectively on the two key defence medical outputs. The DSCA will be disestablished on 31 March 2003, with its training-related functions transferring to an expanded medical training agency, and healthcare commissioning being undertaken by a new group within the Surgeon General's staff. The MSA has now transferred into the Defence Logistics Organisation as of 1 April 2002.

The review has provided an important opportunity to take stock of the progress that has been made since the announcement of the new strategy for the DMS at the end of 1998. It is no surprise that it has concluded that while much has been done over the last three years, there are further steps to be taken—and changes to be made—that will help the process of restoring DMS capability and ensuring that key defence medical outputs are delivered. The Government are committed to achieving those aims and, subject to the normal consultative process, to implementing the outcome of the review.