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Goverment offers amendments to Health Bill

2 February 2012

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The government has made 137 amendments to the proposed Health and Social Care Bill in a bid to appease its critics.

Under the latest amendments, Tory Health Minister Earl Howe said he hoped to put the Secretary of State’s responsibility and accountability of the provision of care in the health service “beyond all doubt”.

As such, the DH has accepted the clause put forward by Labour peer Baroness Joy of Paddington during the bill’s committee stage.

The clause will now read: ‘The secretary of state retains ministerial responsibility to parliament for the provision of the health service in England.’

The proposed amendments will establish a ‘clear link’ between the duty of CCGs to commission services and the Secretary of State’s duty to promote a comprehensive health service.

The new arrangements will also see the NCB and CCGs will have a duty to promote education and training for commissioners.

CCG constitutions will be expected to include arrangements for managing conflicts of interest for all members of committees or sub-committees of either the group or its governing body.

This safeguard will be put in place to prevent potential potential conflicts of interests arising from members of commissioning support organisations (CSOs) within CCGs.

Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said the amendments are “merely tinkering around the edges” and “do not go anywhere near far enough”.

“[The amendments] fail to resolve the fundamental concerns that the RCN has about the Health and Social Care Bill. We still feel the reforms are creating such turmoil that they must be stopped,” said Dr Carter.

“The bill continues to damage the NHS as we know it and combined with the need to save £20 billion in England by 2014, we fear that the health service is facing an extremely difficult future.”

However, the Family Doctor Association (FDA) spoke of its support for the Health Bill, labelling it as the “Big Bang” that is needed for clinical commissioning to take off.

“Without primary legislation, the top-heavy administration of the SHAs and PCTs would continue,” said Dr Peter Swinyard, Chair of the FDA.

“With the Bill, administrative overhead costs will be reduced by at least 50%.”