Health Bill receives royal assent and becomes law

The controversial Health Bill has now become law after receiving royal assent this afternoon.

It was announced in the House of Lords this afternoon that the Queen had given assent to the Bill, making it an Act, the day before parliament is due to begin Easter recess.  

During its 25 days in the Lords, the Bill received 374 amendments. The House of Commons passed the Bill last week, by a margin of 82 votes.

Now clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will begin the authorisation process in October and could become statutory organisations from April 2013.

The NHS Commissioning Board (NCB) will become fully operational and PCTs and strategic health authorities will be formally scrapped from April 2013.

Parliament is due to open on 16 April when ministers will have to begin finalising the finer details of implementation.

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GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said royal assent for the Bill was 'not the end of the story, but simply the beginning'.

He said the Health Act could be used 'in a variety of ways', urging GPs to exploit this to build 'inclusive CCGs based on the founding principles of the NHS'.

'It is vital that GPs work with their colleagues in secondary care and community care and try to limit the worst ways the reforms could be used, and to limit competition,' Dr Vautrey said.

Many unanswered questions remained about the government's NHS reforms, he added. 'The quality premium, how the NHS Commissioning Board operates, and Monitor operates, lifting of the private income cap on hospitals, the NHS failure regime, how local education and training boards will operate' were not yet clear, he said.

RCGP chairwoman Clare Gerada said the college will now be helping GPs to become commissioners by equipping them with the skills they need.

She said: ‘We want to be working with the government to help stabilise the NHS. Although I am disappointed as I have worked hard to mitigate the problems, we have to move on and work with the government on the secondary legislation and implementation. This will be on things like practice boundaries and any qualified provider.

‘We have to analyse the Bill now. We want to be there to help implement what I suspect is a very complicated and conflicting Bill.’

Health Bill timeline
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