The Health Bill’s progress through parliament is to be delayed by a month to give health secretary Andrew Lansley time to listen to concerns about the possible impact on the NHS.
Mr Lansley told the House of Commons yesterday that the government plans to amend the bill, but provided no substantial details on what will change, following speculation about a “U-turn” over the controversial proposals.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said that there would now be “a pause, through recess and beyond, to listen.”
However, Nursing Times’s sister title HSJ understands that the timetable of the bill is to be delayed by a month, meaning that it will return to the House of Commons in mid-June, rather than mid-May as previously planned, before passing to the Lords in mid-July, rather than mid-June. The government’s intention is still to secure Royal Assent for the bill by the end of the year.
Mr Lansley’s statement to the Commons followed speculation there would be a “U-turn” over the controversial proposals.
He said he recognised there were some “genuine” concerns. He stated: “We intend to take the opportunity of a natural break in the passage of the bill to engage and subsequently bring forward amendments to improve the bill in the normal way.”
Mr Lansley reiterated his aims for clinical leadership, saying he wanted to create a service “where the power to deliver is in the hands of local doctors, nurses, health professionals and local communities”.
He stated that he wanted the support of health professionals for the proposals and said he believed he already had it. He said: “Our desire is to move forward with the support of doctors, nurses and others who work in the NHS and make a difference to the lives of so many of us, day in, day out.”
He added: “Doctors and nurses in the service have been clear that they want the changes to support truly integrated services, breaking down the institutional barriers which have held back modernisation in the past.”
However, shadow health secretary John Healey said there was “growing concern from doctors and nurses” about the changes.
Government amendments are expected to be made to the bill in the Lords in the summer.
Mr Lansley today said he would “indicate some of the areas where I believe we will be able to make improvements”.
- Ensuring choice and competition should “only ever be a means to impove services for patients”. Mr Lansley said he some wanted assurance independent providers would not be able to “cherry pick” services, causing problems for NHS organisations.
- In relation to accountability, he said: “People want to know GP groups cannot have a conflict of interest… and are accountable, not only nationally but locally to health and wellbeing boards.”
- Assurance the “patient voice” in the health service is “genuinely influential”.
- Changes to “support truly integrated services” and the “breaking down [of] institutional barriers”.
Have you signed our petition to ensure nurses have a seat on consortia boards? Follow @Aseatontheboard on twitter follow for all the latest campaign news!