The government is facing a joint Labour-Liberal Democrat challenge to Health Act regulations, which impose restrictions on the nurse membership of clinical commissioning groups.
Nursing Times has learnt Liberal Democrat peers will support opposition moves in the Lords to block secondary legislation, which bans local nurses, hospital consultants and councillors from sitting on the boards of CCGs.
CCGs are due to take over the bulk of NHS service commissioning from primary care trusts in April 2013. Rules on the makeup of the governing bodies that will oversee each CCG were laid before Parliament in July.
Nurse representation on these boards was made mandatory last year, after ministers responded to Nursing Times’ Seat on the Board campaign and similar calls from bodies including the Royal College of Nursing and the influential Commons health select committee.
However, under the government’s current rules on CCG board membership, nurse and hospital doctor representatives must not be from a local service provider.
Instead, they are supposed to come from outside of the CCG’s direct area, in order to avoid any possible conflicts of interest between local service providers and their CCGs, which will commission services from them.
Many CCGs have struggled to find nurse and medical representatives from outside their area to join their governing bodies and some want to appoint individuals from local hospitals or community services.
Lord Philip Hunt, Labour’s health spokesman in the House of Lords, has called a debate for 16 October and will propose a motion opposing those restrictions.
Baroness Judith Jolly, the Lib Dem health spokeswoman in the Lords, told Nursing Times’ sister title HSJ she and her colleagues would also oppose them.
She said nurses and doctors from providers local to a CCG should also be able to sit on its governing body, as long as they declared interests.
Lord Hunt said: “The rules are really depriving CCGs of valuable expertise.” He said restricting membership because of conflict of interest was “really taking the ideology of the market too far”.
The peers ultimately hope to force ministers to change the regulations, but may initially be able to win a vote to delay or block them.
Labour will also call debates on further Health Act regulations throughout the autumn.