Health and Social Care (Re-committed) Bill

Memorandum submitted by over 100 members of the public (HSR 31)

1. I submit this evidence as I am very worried about the proposed changes and amendments to the NHS bill.

2. It is my understanding that the government proposes to change the wording of those parts of the Bill - sections 1, sections 2 and sections 3[1] - that ensure the Secretary of State for Health not only has a duty to promote but also to provide or secure general and listed health services in England.

3. The government asserts that the change in wording will not alter the duty on the State to both promote and provide general and specific health services in England.

4. If the duty to provide health services is not, in essence, being changed in any fundamental way there is no case for altering the wording of the 2006 NHS Act in this respect.

5. There is however a case against changing it. If amendments are made to these sections, the whole Bill needs to be fully re-examined in light of the amended clauses in order to confirm that the Bill does not change the duty on the State to provide health services . However, sufficient time has not been allowed to undertake adequate legal scrutiny of the Bill as a whole.

6. In the absence of adequate legal scrutiny, Parliament and the electorate simply do not know what the proposed amendments – and the new Bill as a whole - will mean in practice.

7. I am therefore writing as a member of the electorate to make clear that I strongly oppose any change to the wording of sections 1, 2 and 3[1] of the 2006 NHS Act.

In summary:

The current legal framework enshrines the founding principles of the NHS, ensuring that it remains publicly provided and accountable, comprehensive, universal, equitable, funded by taxes and free at the point of delivery. The duty on the Secretary of State for Health to provide as well as promote both general and listed services is the lynchpin in this legal framework. The most convincing legal evidence to date has been that this Bill removes the duty to provide health services. The government must allow adequate time for proper scrutiny of the amended Bill, in its entirety, to ensure it no longer abolishes either the general duty on the Secretary of State to provide or secure provision of health services in England or the specific duty to provide listed services. Until that time, no change should be made to sections 1, 2 and 3[1] of the 2006 NHS Act. Only this will ensure the State retains its duty to provide or secure as well as to promote comprehensive health services in the England. Given that the government says there is no intention to remove the duty to provide services, no amendment to the 2006 NHS Act should be necessary.

July 2011

Prepared 11th July 2011