Baroness Young: Health Bill will stall in Lords

The government's failure to set out GP consortia's duties in detail in the Health Bill will slow its progress through parliament, a leading peer has warned.

Baroness Young: fears over Bill
Baroness Young: fears over Bill

Cross-bench peer Baroness Barbara Young said many Labour, Liberal Democrat and cross-bench peers had concerns about the Health Bill.

The Bill is part of primary legislation, but the government is expected to define much of the detail of consortia roles in supplementary regulations and guidelines. Regulations form part of secondary legislation and are subject to less parliamentary scrutiny. Guidelines are advisory and do not have legal force.

Many peers were unhappy that much of the detail on consortia would not be in the Health Bill as primary legislation, Baroness Young said.

'Parliament gets quite antsy if the secondary stuff is not available, at least in draft form, before they have to pass the primary stuff, because you are buying a pig in a poke,' she said. 'We have to get work started on clarifying exactly what the role of the NHS Commissioning Board will be in holding consortia accountable.'

The Bill is one of the largest debated by parliament for many years. Its sheer size will mean its reading and committee stages in the House of Lords will take a long time, she said. There is also no limitation on how long bills can be discussed in the House of Lords, so that process may take longer than in the House of Commons.

Baroness Young said she could not understand why the government would resist including in the Health Bill details that it was happy to put in secondary legislation. She said that although some 'incredibly detailed' parts of the reforms need not be in primary legislation, high-level principles have to be included.

Baroness Young, who is chief executive of Diabetes UK, also called for the Health Bill to require commissioners to work to integrate services around the needs of the patient.

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