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New Bill set to improve worst parts of NHS reforms

BMA warns CCGs must keep operational independence

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 10 November 2014

Moves to improve issues that raised concern from the NHS reforms of last year have been taken with the publication of a new parliamentary Bill.

The National Health Service (amended Duties and Powers) Bill focuses on reinstating and enhancing the health secretary’s duties to promote and to provide healthcare, a move welcomed by the BMA.

The BMA said the Private Member’s Bill, published on 7 November, contained “helpful measures” to secure confidence over the health secretary’s ultimate responsibility and accountability for the NHS. It is due to have a second reading in the House of Commons on 21 November.

However, care had to be taken to ensure that the legislation did not risk bringing in inappropriate political interference in the day-to-day running of the NHS.

A BMA spokesperson said: “The Health and Social Care Act 2012 caused enormous damage to the NHS, with only 5% of doctors in England agreeing that it improved the quality of services for patients.

“We support the Bill’s intention to reverse the decision to remove final accountability for the NHS from the health secretary, making it clear that the government must retain ultimate responsibility for the provision of a comprehensive health service.

“NHS England and CCGs must, however, have day-to-day operational independence. After years of the NHS being used as a political football we are concerned that the Bill expands the health secretary’s powers too far in a number of areas and so care must be taken to ensure that the legislation does not risk introducing even more political interference in the daily running of the NHS.”

The Bill was, nevertheless, a positive step towards removing some of the worst elements of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, said the BMA, and it welcomed the proposed changes to the former “over-emphasis” on competition over integration.

“The cost of introducing the Health and Social Care Act ran into billions with very little to show for it,” said the spokesperson. “It is vital that policy makers do not repeat the mistakes of the past and use this Bill as a precursor for further unnecessary, top-down structural change."

Trade union UNISON’s general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This is a Bill that rightly places patient care before profits. It ensures that Britain’s most loved institution operates on its founding principles of a service that meets the needs of patients and is free at the point of delivery.

“It also protects the NHS from exploitative competition and shields the service from the damaging implications of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and any other international trade agreements.”

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