Framework agreement between the Department of Health and Social Care and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority – GOV.UK

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Published 6 January 2022

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This framework agreement has been agreed between the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (the HFEA) in accordance with HM Treasury’s handbook Managing public money (as updated from time to time) and has been approved by HM Treasury.
1.1 The framework agreement sets out the broad governance framework within which the HFEA and DHSC operate. It:
1.2 The document does not convey any legal powers or responsibilities, but all parties agree to operate within its terms.
1.3 References to the HFEA include all its subsidiaries and joint ventures that are classified to the public sector and central government for national accounts purposes. If the HFEA establishes a subsidiary or joint venture, there shall be a document setting out the arrangements between it and the HFEA agreed with the department.
1.4 Copies of the document and any subsequent amendments have been placed in the libraries of both Houses of Parliament and made available to members of the public on the HFEA’s website and on GOV.UK.
1.5 This framework agreement should be reviewed and updated at least every 3 years unless there are exceptional reasons that render this inappropriate that have been agreed with HM Treasury and the principal accounting officer of the sponsor department. The latest date for review and updating of this document is 2024.
1.6 DHSC and the HFEA share the common objective of:
To achieve this, the HFEA and DHSC will work together in recognition of each other’s roles and areas of expertise, providing an effective environment for the HFEA to achieve its objectives through the promotion of partnership and trust, and ensuring that the HFEA also supports the strategic aims and objectives of DHSC and wider government as a whole.
1.7 The HFEA has been classified as a central government organisation by the Office for National Statistics/HM Treasury Classifications team.
1.8 It has been administratively classified by the Cabinet Office as a non-departmental public body.
2.1 The HFEA was established under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (the HFE Act). Its purposes are set out in section 8 of that act.
2.2 The HFEA’s powers and duties stem from sections 8 and 8ZA of the HFE Act.
2.3 The HFEA’s statutory duties and functions are to:
2.4 The HFEA’s strategic aims are set out in their 2020 to 2024 Strategy. These are to:
3.1 The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care will account for the HFEA on all matters concerning the HFEA in Parliament, including delivery and performance. This includes being accountable to Parliament in relation to the functions and performance of the HFEA.
3.2 The Secretary of State’s statutory powers in respect of the HFEA are set out in HFE Act. These are to:
3.3 Through the exercise of these powers, the minister:
3.4 The principal accounting officer is the permanent secretary of DHSC.
3.5 The principal accounting officer of DHSC designates the chief executive as the HFEA’s accounting officer and ensures they are fully aware of their responsibilities. The principal accounting officer issues a letter appointing the accounting officer, setting out their responsibilities and delegated authorities.
3.6 The respective responsibilities of the principal accounting officer and accounting officers are set out in chapter 3 of Managing public money.
3.7 The principal accounting officer is accountable to Parliament for the issue of grant-in-aid to the HFEA. The principal accounting officer, usually via the sponsorship team, is also responsible for advising the Secretary of State on:
3.8 The principal accounting officer via the sponsorship team is also responsible for ensuring arrangements are in place in order to:
3.9 A director is appointed as the senior departmental sponsor who acts as the HFEA’s designated, consistent point of contact within DHSC and manages their overall relationship with DHSC. The senior departmental sponsor acts as the link at executive level between the HFEA and senior officials of DHSC, and with ministers.
3.10 While the senior departmental sponsor role is facilitative and recognises the need for direct engagement between the HFEA and other parts of the department and ministers, it also supports the Secretary of State and Permanent Secretary in holding the HFEA to account. The senior departmental sponsor is also responsible for agreeing the objectives for and reviewing the contribution of the chair of the HFEA.
3.11 The HFEA sponsor team (part of the Health Ethics team) in DHSC supports the senior departmental sponsor and is the primary contact for the HFEA. The sponsor team liaises regularly with counterparts in the HFEA to support effective corporate relationships, and co-ordinate assurance and accountability functions.
3.12 Officials of the sponsor team will liaise regularly with HFEA officials to review:
The HFEA and the sponsor team will hold quarterly accountability meetings. The sponsor team will also take the opportunity to explain wider policy developments that might have an impact on the HFEA.
3.13 Information will be provided to the department by the HFEA including (not an exhaustive list):
3.14 The process in place to enable DHSC and the HFEA to review performance include:
The HFEA will also prepare an annual report of the 12 months ending on 31 March 2022, setting out:
3.15 Any disputes between DHSC and the HFEA will be resolved in as timely a manner as possible. DHSC and the HFEA will seek to resolve any disputes through an informal process in the first instance. If this is not possible, then a formal process, overseen by the senior sponsor, will be used to resolve the issue. Failing this, the senior sponsor will ask the relevant policy director general to oversee the dispute. They may then choose to ask the Permanent Secretary to nominate a non-executive member of DHSC’s board to review the dispute, mediate with both sides and reach an outcome, in consultation with the Secretary of State.
3.16 Where a request for information is received by either party under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, or the Data Protection Act 1998 or Data Protection Act 2018, the party receiving the request will consult with the other party prior to any disclosure of information that may affect the other party’s responsibilities.
3.17 The HFEA shall provide a quarterly update to the sponsor on the existence of any active litigation and any threatened or reasonably anticipated litigation. The parties acknowledge the importance of ensuring that legal risks are communicated appropriately to the sponsor in a timely manner.
3.18 In respect of each substantial piece of litigation involving the HFEA, the parties will agree a litigation protocol, which will include specific provisions to ensure appropriate and timely reporting on the status of the litigation and the protection of legally privileged information transmitted to the sponsor to facilitate this. Until such time as a protocol is agreed, the parties will ensure that:
4.1 The HFEA shall operate corporate governance arrangements that, so far as practicable and in the light of the other provisions of this framework agreement or as otherwise may be mutually agreed, accord with good corporate governance practice and applicable regulatory requirements and expectations.
4.2 In particular (but without limitation), the HFEA should:
4.3 In line with annex 3.1 of Managing public money, the HFEA shall provide an account of corporate governance in its annual governance statement, including the board’s assessment of its compliance with the code with explanations of any material departures. To the extent that the HFEA does intend to materially depart from the code, the sponsor should be notified in advance and their agreement sought to this approach.
4.4 The chief executive of the HFEA is appointed by the board of the HFEA at the discretion of the chair and with the approval of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
4.5 The chief executive as accounting officer is personally responsible for:
In addition, they should ensure that the HFEA as a whole is run on the basis of the standards, in terms of governance, decision-making and financial management that are set out in box 3.1 of Managing public money. These responsibilities include the below and those that are set in the accounting officer appointment letter issued by the principal accounting officer of the sponsor department.
4.6 The accountabilities include:
acting in accordance with the terms of Managing public money and other instructions and guidance issued from time to time by DHSC, HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office ensuring that as part of the above compliance they are familiar with and act in accordance with:
4.7 Responsibilities to DHSC include:
ensuring that:
4.8 The chief executive is responsible for:
4.9 The chief executive should follow the advice and direction of the board, except in very exceptional circumstances with a clear cut and transparent rationale for not doing so.
4.10 If the board, or its chair, is contemplating a course of action involving a transaction that the chief executive considers would infringe the requirements of propriety or regularity or does not represent prudent or economical administration, efficiency or effectiveness, is of questionable feasibility, or is unethical, the chief executive in their role as accounting officer should reject that course of action and ensure that the board have a full opportunity to discuss the rationale for that rejection.
4.11 Such conflicts should be brought to the attention of the principal accounting officer and the responsible minister as soon as possible.
4,12 Furthermore and if agreed with the responsible minister, the accounting officer must write a letter of justification to the chair of the board setting out the rationale for not following the advice and recommendation of the board and copy that letter to the Treasury Officer of Accounts.
4.13 If the responsible minister agrees with the proposed course of action of the board, it may be appropriate for the minister to direct the accounting officer in the manner as set out in Managing public money paragraph 3.4 onwards.
4.14 The HFEA will have a board, called the authority, in line with good standards of corporate governance and as set out in its establishing statute and in guidance as set out in Annex A. The role of the board shall be to run the HFEA, and to deliver the objectives, in accordance with the purposes as set out above, their statutory, regulatory, common law duties and their responsibilities under this framework agreement. Detailed responsibilities of the board shall be set out in the board terms of reference. Remuneration of the board will be disclosed in line with the guidance in the government Financial Reporting Manual (FReM).
4.15 The board will consist of a chair and a deputy chair, and any such number of non-executive members that the Secretary of State appoints, as set out in section 5 of the HFE Act. The non-executive members will have a balance of skills and experience appropriate to directing the HFEA’s business. The chair and chief executive decide the balance of skills across the authority, which may include members who have experience of the fertility sector as medical practitioners, in operational delivery, lawyers, ethicists, patient advocates, clinical geneticist, biomedical scientists, financial services, communications and performance management. The board will include a member who is an appropriately qualified finance director as described in annex 4.1 of Managing public money.
4.16 The board may set up such committees as necessary for it to fulfil its functions. As is detailed below, at a minimum, this should include an Audit and Risk Committee chaired by an independent and appropriately qualified non-executive member of the board.
4.17 While the board may make use of committees to assist its consideration of appointments, succession, audit, risk and remuneration, it retains responsibility for, and endorses, final decisions in all of these areas. The chair should ensure that sufficient time is allowed at board meetings for committees to report on the nature and content of discussion, on recommendations, and on actions to be taken.
4.18 Where there is disagreement between the relevant committee and the board, adequate time should be made available for discussion of the issue with a view to resolving the disagreement. Where any such disagreement cannot be resolved, the committee concerned should have the right to report the issue to the sponsor team, principal accounting officer and responsible minister. They may also seek to ensure the disagreement or concern is reflected as part of the report on its activities in the annual report.
4.19 The chair should ensure board committees are properly structured with appropriate terms of reference. The terms of each committee should set out its responsibilities and the authority delegated to it by the board. The chair should ensure that committee membership is periodically refreshed and that individual independent non-executive directors are not over-burdened when deciding the chairs and membership of committees.
4.20 The chair is appointed by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care under section 5, schedule 1 of the HFE Act. This appointment is subject to the Public Appointments Order in Council and as such must comply with the Governance Code for Public Appointments.
4.21 The deputy chair is appointed by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care under section 5, schedule 1 of the HFE Act. This appointment is subject to the Public Appointments Order in Council and as such must comply with the Governance Code for Public Appointments.
4.22 Non-executive directors are appointed by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care under section 5 of the HFE Act. This appointment is subject to the Public Appointments Order in Council and as such must comply with the Governance Code for Public Appointments.
4.23 All such appointments should have regard to the principle that appointments should reflect the diversity of the society in which we live, and appointments should be made taking account of the need to appoint boards that include a balance of skills and backgrounds.
4.24 As set out in schedule 1, paragraph 4 of the HFE Act, the following persons are disqualified from being appointed as chair or deputy chair of the authority:
4.25 At least one-third but fewer than half of the other members of the board must meet one of the criteria, and at least one member must fall within each of paragraphs (i) and (ii).
4.26 The board is specifically responsible for:
4.27 The board should ensure that effective arrangements are in place to provide assurance on risk management, governance and internal control.
4.28 The board should make a strategic choice about the style and shape of risk management and should lead the assessment and management of opportunity and risk. The board should ensure that effective arrangements are in place to provide assurance over the design and operation of risk management, governance and internal control in line with the Management of Risk – Principles and Concepts (The Orange Book). The board must set up an Audit and Risk Assurance Committee, chaired by an independent and appropriately qualified non-executive member, to provide independent advice and ensure that the department’s Audit and Risk Assurance Committee are provided with routine assurances with escalation of any significant limitations or concerns. The board is expected to assure itself of the adequacy and effectiveness of the risk management framework and the operation of internal control.
4.29 The chair is responsible for leading the board in the delivery of its responsibilities. Such responsibility should be exercised in the light of their duties and responsibilities as set out in the chair’s contract of employment, the statutory authority governing HFEA, this document and the documents and guidance referred to within this document.
4.30 Communications between the HFEA board and the responsible minister should normally be through the chair.
4.31 The chair is bound by the Code of conduct for board members of public bodies, which covers conduct in the role and includes the Nolan Principles of Public Life.
4.32 In addition, the chair is responsible for:
4.33 The chair has the following leadership responsibilities:
4.34 The chair also has an obligation to ensure that:
4.35 Individual board members shall:
5.1 The HFEA’s delegated authorities are set out in the department’s Schedule of Delegations and delegation letter. This delegation letter may be updated and superseded by later versions which may be issued by the department in agreement with HM Treasury.
5.2 In line with Managing public money Annex 2.2 these delegations will be reviewed on an annual basis and delegation letters will therefore be updated from time to time by the department, in agreement with the HM Treasury Spending team.
5.3 The HFEA shall obtain the department’s and where appropriate HM Treasury’s prior written approval before:
5.4 Once the budget has been approved by the department, the HFEA has authority to incur expenditure approved in the budget without further reference to the department, on the following conditions:
5.5 The HFEA shall maximise the use of publicly procured banking services (accounts with central government commercial banks managed centrally by government banking).
5.6 The HFEA shall only hold money outside government banking service accounts where a good business case can made for doing so and HM Treasury consent is required for each account to be established. Only commercial banks which are members of relevant UK clearing bodies may be considered for this purpose.
5.7 Commercial accounts where approved shall be operated in line with the principles as set out in Managing public money.
5.8 The accounting officer is responsible for ensuring that the HFEA has a banking policy as set out in Managing public money and ensuring that the policy is complied with.
5.9 The HFEA shall ensure that its procurement policies are aligned with and comply with any relevant UK or other international procurement rules and in particular the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.
5.10 The HFEA shall establish its procurement policies and document these in a Procurement Policy and Procedures Manual.
5.11 In procurement cases where the HFEA is likely to exceed its delegated authority limit, procurement strategy approval for the specific planned purchase must be sought from the department’s sponsor team.
5.12 Goods, services, and works should be acquired by competition. Proposals to let single-tender or restricted contracts shall be limited and exceptional, and a quarterly report explaining those exceptions should be sent to the department.
5.13 Procurement by the HFEA of works, equipment, goods, and services shall be based on, a full option appraisal and value for money – that is, the optimum combination and whole life costs and quality (fitness for purpose).
5.14 The HFEA shall:
5.15 The HFEA shall also comply with the Commercial and Grants standards. These standards apply to the planning, delivery, and management of government commercial activity, including management of grants in all departments and arm’s length bodies, regardless of commercial approach used and form part of a suite of functional standards that set expectations for management within government.
5.16 The HFEA shall ensure that the risks that it faces are dealt with in an appropriate manner, in accordance with relevant aspects of best practice in corporate governance, and develop a risk management strategy, in accordance with HM Treasury guidance Management of Risk – Principles and Concepts (The Orange Book).
5.17 The HFEA shall promptly notify the department of any operational and financial risks arising from their activities which may have a potentially significant impact on them, the department, another health and care body or the wider system. These will be discussed in meetings they have with the senior departmental sponsor and the sponsor team. Such risks shall also be notified by the HFEA’s risk function or board to the department’s risk team and may be escalated to the department’s Audit and Risk Committee for consideration. The chair of the HFEA’s Audit and Governance Committee shall also escalate any risk concerns to the department’s risk team and may be asked to attend the department’s Audit and Risk Committee to explain risks. It is the responsibility of the HFEA and the sponsor team to keep each other informed of significant risks to, or arising from, the operations of the HFEA within the wider system.
5.18 The HFEA shall adopt and implement policies and practices to safeguard itself against fraud and theft.
5.19 The HFEA shall act in line with guidance as issued by the Counter Fraud Function and in compliance with the procedures and considerations as set in in Managing public money Annex 4.9 and the Counter Fraud Functional Standard. The HFEA shall also take all reasonable steps to appraise the financial standing of any firm or other body with which it intends to enter a contract or to provide grant or grant-in-aid.
5.20 The HFEA shall keep records of and prepare and forward to the department an annual report on fraud and theft suffered by the HFEA and notify the department of any unusual or major incidents as soon as possible. The HFEA shall also report identified loss from fraud, bribery, corruption and error, alongside associated recoveries and prevented losses, to the counter fraud centre of expertise in line with the agreed government definitions as set out in Counter Fraud Functional Standard.
5.21 Within the arrangements approved by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Treasury the HFEA will have responsibility for the recruitment, retention and motivation of its staff. The broad responsibilities toward its staff are to ensure that:
5.22 Subject to its delegated authorities, the HFEA shall ensure that the creation of any additional posts does not incur forward commitments that will exceed its ability to pay for them.
5.23 The HFEA’s staff are subject to levels of remuneration and terms and conditions of service (including pensions) within the general pay structure approved by the sponsor department and the Treasury. The HFEA has no delegated power to amend these terms and conditions without the approval of the Secretary of State and HM Treasury.
5.24 If civil service terms and conditions of service apply to the rates of pay and non-pay allowances paid to the staff and to any other party entitled to payment in respect of travel expenses or other allowances, payment shall be made in accordance with the Civil Service Management Code and the annual Civil Service Pay Remit Guidance, except where prior approval has been given by the department to vary such rates.
5.25 Staff terms and conditions shall be set out on the HFEA intranet. Copies should be provided to the department together with subsequent amendments as required.
5.26 The HFEA shall abide by public sector pay controls, including the relevant approvals process dependent on the organisations classification as detailed in the Senior Pay Guidance and the public sector pay and terms guidance.
5.27 The HFEA shall operate a performance-related pay scheme that shall form part of the annual aggregate pay budget approved by the department, where relevant with due regard to the senior pay guidance.
5.28 The travel expenses of board members shall be tied to the rates allowed to senior staff of the HFEA. Reasonable actual costs shall be reimbursed.
5.29 Compensation scheme rules and pension scheme rules shall reflect legislative and HM Treasury guidance requirements regarding exit payments.
5.30 HFEA staff shall normally be eligible for a pension provided by the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (PCSPS). Staff may opt out of the occupational pension scheme provided by the HFEA, but that employers’ contribution to any personal pension arrangement, including stakeholder pension shall normally be limited to the national insurance rebate level.
5.31 Any proposal by the HFEA to move from the existing pension arrangements, or to pay any redundancy or compensation for loss of office, requires the prior approval of the department. Proposals on severance must comply with the rules in chapter 4 of Managing public money.
5.32 HFEA shall seek approval from the department’s Remuneration Committee for recruiting to executive and senior managers posts or paying above the relevant ceilings in the executive and senior managers’ pay framework. All applications will need approval from the HFEA sponsor team before being considered by the Committee.
6.1 The HFEA shall submit annually to the department a draft of the corporate plan covering 3 years ahead. The draft should be submitted by 31 March. The HFEA shall agree with the department the issues to be addressed in the plan and the timetable for its preparation. The plan shall reflect the HFEA’s statutory and/or other duties and, within those duties, the priorities set from time to time by the responsible minister (including decisions taken on policy and resources in the light of wider public expenditure decisions). The plan shall demonstrate how the HFEA contributes to the achievement of the department’s medium-term plan and priorities and aligned performance metrics and milestones.
6.2 The first year of the 3-year corporate plan, amplified as necessary, shall form the business plan. The business plan shall be updated to include key targets and milestones for the year immediately ahead and shall be linked to budgeting information so that resources allocated to achieve specific objectives can readily be identified by the department.
6.3 Subject to any commercial considerations, the corporate and business plans should be published by the HFEA on its website and separately be made available to staff.
6.4 The following key matters should be included in the plans:
6.5 Each year, in the light of decisions by the department on the updated draft corporate plan, the department will send to the HFEA by an agreed date:
6.6 The approved annual business plan will take account both of approved funding provision and any forecast receipts, and will include a budget of estimated payments and receipts together with a profile of expected expenditure and of draw-down of any departmental funding and/or other income over the year. These elements form part of the approved business plan for the year in question.
6.7 Any grant-in-aid provided by the department for the year in question will be voted in the department’s supply estimate and be subject to parliamentary control.
6.8 The grant-in-aid will normally be paid in monthly instalments on the basis of written applications showing evidence of need. The HFEA will comply with the general principle that there is no payment in advance of need. Cash balances accumulated during the course of the year from grant-in-aid or other Exchequer funds shall be kept to a minimum level consistent with the efficient operation of the HFEA. Grant-in-aid not drawn down by the end of the financial year shall lapse. Subject to approval by Parliament of the relevant estimates provision, where grant-in-aid is delayed to avoid excess cash balances at the year-end, the department will make available in the next financial year any such grant-in-aid that is required to meet any liabilities at the year end, such as creditors.
6.9 In the event that the department provides the HFEA separate grants for specific (ring-fenced) purposes, it would issue the grant as and when the HFEA needed it on the basis of a written request. The HFEA would provide evidence that the grant was used for the purposes authorised by the department. The HFEA shall not have uncommitted grant funds in hand, nor carry grant funds over to another financial year.
6.10 The HFEA board must publish an annual report of its activities together with its audited accounts after the end of each financial year. The HFEA shall provide the finalised (audited) accounts in line with the agreed annual timetable established by the department in order for the accounts to be consolidated within DHSC’s accounts. A draft of the report shall be submitted to the department at least 2 weeks before the proposed publication date. The accounts should be prepared in accordance with the relevant statutes and specific accounts direction issued by the department, as well as with HM Treasury’s Financial Reporting Manual.
6.11 The annual report and accounts shall:
6.12 Information on performance against key financial targets is within the scope of the audit and should be included as part of the financial performance described in the annual report. The report and accounts shall be laid in Parliament and made available on the HFEA’s website, in accordance with the guidance in the Financial Reporting Manual.
6.13 The HFEA shall operate management, information and accounting systems that enable it to review in a timely and effective manner its financial and non-financial performance against the budgets and targets set out in the corporate and business plans.
6.14 The HFEA shall inform the sponsor department of any changes that make achievement of objectives more or less difficult. It shall report financial and non-financial performance, including performance in helping to deliver ministers’ policies, and the achievement of key objectives regularly through Quarterly Accountably meetings with the department.
6.15 The HFEA’s performance shall be formally reviewed by the department 4 times a year.
6.16 The responsible minister shall meet the chair and chief executive once a year.
6.17 The department has the right of access to HFEA records and personnel for any purpose including, for example, sponsorship audits and operational investigations. This will not apply to information held by the register.
6.18 The HFEA shall provide the sponsor department with such information about its operations, performance, individual projects or other expenditure as the sponsor department may reasonably require.
6.19 The department and HM Treasury may request the sharing of data held by the HFEA in such a manner as set out in central guidance except insofar as it is prohibited by law. This may include requiring the appointment of a senior official to be responsible for the data sharing relationship.
6.20 As a minimum, the HFEA shall provide the department with information monthly that will enable the department satisfactorily to monitor:
7.1 The HFEA shall:
7.2 The National Audit Office (NAO) audits the HFEA’s annual accounts, which are then certified by the Comptroller and Auditor General. The NAO lays the accounts before Parliament, together with the report.
7.3 In the event that the HFEA has set up and controls subsidiary companies, the HFEA shall, in the light of the provisions in the Companies Act 2006, ensure that the Comptroller and Auditor General has the option to be appointed auditor of those company subsidiaries that it controls and/or whose accounts are consolidated within its own accounts. The HFEA shall discuss with the department the procedures for appointing the Comptroller and Auditor General as auditor of the companies.
7.4 The Comptroller and Auditor General:
7.5 The Comptroller and Auditor General may carry out examinations into the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which the HFEA has used its resources in discharging its functions. For the purpose of these examinations the Comptroller and Auditor General has statutory access to documents as provided for under section 8 of the National Audit Act 1983. In addition, the HFEA shall provide, in conditions to grants and contracts, for the Comptroller and Auditor General to exercise such access to documents held by grant recipients and contractors and sub-contractors as may be required for these examinations; and shall use its best endeavours to secure access for the Comptroller and Auditor General to any other documents required by the Comptroller and Auditor General which are held by other bodies.
8.1 In accordance with Cabinet Office guidance, the HFEA shall be reviewed at appropriate dates as agreed with the department.
8.2 The department shall put in place arrangements to ensure the orderly winding up of the HFEA. In particular, it should ensure that the assets and liabilities of the HFEA are passed to any successor organisation and accounted for properly. (In the event that there is no successor organisation, the assets and liabilities should revert to the sponsor department.) To this end, the department shall:
8.3 The HFEA shall provide the department with full details of all agreements where the HFEA or its successors have a right to share in the financial gains of developers. It should also pass to the department details of any other forms of claw-back due to the HFEA.
9.1 To support the development of their relationship, the department and the HFEA have agreed to a set of shared principles:
9.2 The department and the HFEA will work together, and with the department’s other arm’s length bodies, in the interests of patients, people who use services and the public to maximise the health and wellbeing gain for the population, demonstrating our commitment to the values of the NHS as set out in its constitution. To support this, the HFEA and the department will follow an ‘open book’ approach. In the case of issues with an impact on the development or implementation of policy, the department can expect to be kept informed by the HFEA. In the same way, the department will seek to keep the HFEA apprised of developments in policy and government. There are likely to be some issues where the department or the HFEA will expect to be consulted by the other before the department or the HFEA makes either a decision or a public statement on a matter. The department and the HFEA will make clear which issues fall into this category in good time. The sponsor team will be responsible for ensuring that this works effectively.
9.3 To support the Secretary of State and the principal accounting officer in their accountability functions, the HFEA must provide the Secretary of State with such information relating to the exercise of its functions as he or she may request. It is therefore expected that the department will, when required, have full access to the HFEA’s files and information. If necessary, the senior departmental sponsor’s team will be responsible for prioritising these requests for information.
9.4 This section sets out the basic principles guiding co-operation and collaborative working between DHSC and the HFEA, across all aspects of communication and marketing activities, to deliver impactful and cost-effective communications in the context of our shared accountability to Parliament and the public.
9.5 The principles include regular collaboration and information sharing between DHSC and the HFEA to ensure communications are aligned and to amplify their impact. All organisations commit to undertaking this collaboration and information sharing in a timely manner, of content being shared with the public, media or other stakeholders. To ensure that, as a system, we are communicating with the public, workforce and our stakeholders in a coordinated manner so as to not confuse or undermine another part of the system.
9.6 To achieve this, DHSC and HFEA communications team will have regular check-in points, including for the heads of communication and media and marketing teams, to agree communication plans. In particular, the HFEA and DHSC will give each other sufficient advance notice of public facing communications to allow for necessary clearances with the relevant teams as set out in the Communications and Marketing Guidance annex of the ALB Schedule of Delegations.
9.7 The HFEA will work in partnership with the department and its other arm’s length bodies, in the interests of patients, people who use services and the public, to maximise the health and wellbeing gain for the population, demonstrating our commitment to the values of the NHS as set out in its constitution.
9.8 The department and its arm’s length bodies have complementary but distinct roles within the system to ensure that service users receive high quality services which deliver value for public money. Details of the working arrangements with other arm’s length bodies and key bodies will, where appropriate, be agreed and set out in a partnership agreement.
9.9 The HFEA is an open organisation that carries out its activities transparently. It demonstrates this by proactively publishing on its website key information on areas including pay, diversity of the workforce, performance, the way it manages public money and the public benefits achieved through its activities, and by supporting those who wish to use the data by publishing the information within guidelines set by the Cabinet Office. The HFEA holds open board meetings in line with the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960. The HFEA will publish an annual report. The annual report will include a governance statement, which is to be reviewed by the senior departmental sponsor.
9.10 To underpin the principles of good communication, ‘no surprises’ and transparency, the HFEA and the department have put in place arrangements for managing communications.
9.11 The HFEA’s non-executive board members operate within the general principles of the corporate governance guidelines set out by HM Treasury. They will also comply with the Cabinet Office’s Code of conduct for board members of public bodies and with the HFEA’s rules on disclosure of financial interests, including those of board members.
9.12 The HFEA has developed a code of conduct for all staff which will comply with the principles in the Cabinet Office’s model code for staff of executive non-departmental public bodies, which includes rules on conflicts of interest, political activity and restrictions on lobbying.
9.13 The HFEA will take all necessary measures to ensure that:
9.14 The HFEA’s Senior Information Risk Owner and Caldicott Guardian will work together to ensure that both patient and other personal information are handled in line with best practice in government and the wider public sector.
9.15 The department and its arm’s length bodies share responsibility for accounting to the public and to Parliament for policies, decisions and activities across the health and care sector. Accountability to Parliament will often be demonstrated through parliamentary questions, MPs’ letters and appearances before parliamentary committees. Accountability to the public may be through the publication of information on the HFEA’s website, as well as through responses to letters from the public and responses to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
9.16 The department and its ministers remain responsible to Parliament for the system overall, so will often have to take the lead in demonstrating this accountability. Where this is the case, the HFEA will support the department by, amongst other things, providing information for ministers to enable them to account to Parliament. In its turn, the department provides leadership to the system for corporate governance, including setting standards for performance in accountability.
9.17 The HFEA, however, has its own responsibilities in accounting to the public and to Parliament, and its way of handling these responsibilities has been agreed with the department. In all matters of public and parliamentary accountability, the department and its arm’s length bodies will work together considerately, cooperatively and collaboratively, and any information provided by the HFEA is to be timely, accurate and, where appropriate, consistent with information provided by the department. To facilitate this, the department and the HFEA have agreed a public and parliamentary accountability protocol (Annex B) that sets out how they will work together to secure the confidence of the public and Parliament, and to maintain the service levels that MPs and the public have come to expect. This will be reviewed, as a minimum, on a tri-annual basis, alongside this framework agreement.
9.18 The public sector equality duty requires the HFEA (as a public body) to have due regard to the need to:
9.19 The specific duties require the HFEA, as a public body, to:
9.20 The HFEA, as with the department and all its arm’s length bodies, has whistleblowing policies and procedures in place that comply with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and best practice guidance. The Act prohibits the use of confidentiality clauses that seek to prevent staff from speaking out on issues of public interest.
9.21 As a major public sector body, the HFEA has a key role to play in driving forward the government’s commitment to sustainability in the economy, society and the environment. As a minimum, the HFEA should comply with the Greening Government Commitments that apply to all government departments, executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies, set out in the action plan for driving sustainable operations and procurement across government. Reporting is via the department (including the consolidation of relevant information in the department’s annual resource account) and the department will ensure the HFEA is aware of the process for this.
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