Update on the Health and Care Bill
The Health and Care Bill continues on its progress through the House of Lords.
A number of partners have come together to support amendments which now seek to remove entirely the Secretary of State’s powers to intervene proactively in local health services (for full details of these plans, read our explainer on the subject from last year). These amendments will be moved in the coming days.
DHSC remains committed to the introduction of these powers – readers should be under no illusion that it is very unlikely that the amendments will succeed. They will, however, compel ongoing Government engagement with this issue, and will demonstrate the strong views of members of the upper House. In this way, we hope and believe that they will lead to some change to Government’s existing plans.
We can, in fact, already report on some substantive changes. We understand that – recognising the challenge of having the new framework fully up and running by 1 April – Government now plans to introduce the new intervention powers *next year* – in April 2023. This means that the current health scrutiny powers – including the power to make a referral in the case of a substantial variation of local health services – will remain until then. We know that confirmation of these points is important for scrutiny practitioners, and we are seeking to receive this confirmation very shortly.
This delay means that the statutory referral power will, for a year, sit alongside the new statutory ICSs. Given this, DHSC has concluded that some transitional guidance may be necessary on scrutiny under these new arrangements, and we are working with them and the LGA to develop something at the moment. Please let us know if you would like to feed into this process, which we expect to happen in the coming weeks.