Government sets out 'significant' Health Bill amendments in NHS Future Forum response

The government has put forward 'significant' amendments to the Health Bill, in response to the NHS Future Forum's recommendations around how the reforms should change.

The Bill will also give the health secretary power to specify requirements around consortia names
The Bill will also give the health secretary power to specify requirements around consortia names

In its full response to the NHS Future Forum report, the government said the legislation will need to be updated around consortia governance arrangements and competition in the NHS.

But it said other ‘important changes’ can be made without altering the Bill, such as the phased introduction of clinical commissioning and the creation of ‘clinical senates’.

The Bill will specify that consortia – now known as clinical commissioning groups - must include at least one registered nurse and a hospital doctor on consortia governance boards, as well as at least two lay members.

One of the lay members will undertake either the role of deputy chair or chair of the governing body, the Bill will say.

The Bill will also require consortia to set out in their annual commissioning plans how they intend to involve patients and the public in their commissioning decisions. Consortia will also be required to consult on their annual commissioning plans to ensure proper opportunities for public input, it said.

The Bill will also give the health secretary power to specify requirements around consortia names, the government said.

It is currently envisaged that consortia will be required to have a name that uses the ‘NHS’ brand and demonstrates a clear link to their geographical area.

Meanwhile, the government said it will bring forward a ‘series of amendments’ to ensure its reform plans do not lead to privatisation of the NHS.

It said it will outlaw any deliberate drive of encouraging the growth of the private sector over existing state providers – or vice versa.

It said the Bill will also be updated to ensure Monitor’s core duties are re-orientated away from promoting competition, towards acting in patients' interests and tackle anti-competitive behaviour.

But the government said it will not need to update the legislation around the timetable for consortia.

It said consortia will not have to take on any part of the commissioning budget in their local area until they are ready and willing to do so.

Where groups are ready and willing, they will be able to take on commissioning responsibility earlier.

But it said while these changes are significant, they do not require amendments to the Bill as they can be realised through the NHS Commissioning Board’s existing powers of authorisation.

It also said that the proposals to establish clinical networks and clinical senates to support commissioners will not require new legislation.  

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