Lords Committee call for changes to Health and Social Care Bill

20 December 2011

The House of Lords Constitution Committee have published a follow-up report calling for changes to the Health and Social Care Bill to ensure that ministerial responsibility to Parliament and legal accountability for the NHS are not diluted

The report recommends three changes to the Bill. There are:

  • The government must ensure the Bill does not reduce the Health Secretary’s accountability to Parliament. The Committee recommend Clause 1 of the Bill be amended to state that the "The Secretary of State retains ministerial responsibility to Parliament for the provision of health services in England."
  • The provision under Clause 4 of the Bill that imposes a duty on the Secretary of State to promote the autonomy of health care providers should be amended to state that it is 'subject to' the existing duty to promote a comprehensive health service.
  • Clause 10 of the Bill removes the duty of the Secretary of State to provide some health services and puts the duty on Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). The Committee are concerned this could weaken individual’s legal protection by confusing responsibility for the removal of services. The Committee recommend that the Bill should explicitly state that CCG’s must act consistently with the Secretary of State’s duty to promote a comprehensive health service.

Today's report is a follow-up to a previous report on the Bill published by the Committee in September. The Committee chose to revisit the Bill to respond to concerns raised by Members from all sides of the House which were not resolved by the Government's response to their initial report.

Commenting Baroness Jay, Chair of the Lords Constitution Committee, said:

"The Health and Social Care Bill is expected to complete its Committee Stage in the Lords this week but there are still serious constitutional issues that we feel must be addressed by the government before that happens. 

It must be made clear in the Bill that the Secretary of State for Health continues to be accountable for the provision of health services in England. This is vital to ensure Parliament can properly scrutinise the NHS in the future.

It is also important that changes are made to clarify the legal responsibility for providing a comprehensive health service. Without this, individuals and the courts will lack the certainty they need in deciding on where the buck stops when health services are removed."

Further information

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