Health and Social Care Bill

Memorandum submitted by the Association of North East Councils (HSR 37)

1. The Association of North East Councils is the political voice for local government in the North East. It represents all 12 local authorities in the North East, throughout Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Durham and the Tees Valley on issues of concern to them and the communities they serve. It is a cross-party organisation, with all of its members democratically elected and accountable politicians.

2. All of our member authorities are keen to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Health and Social Care Bill to improve health outcomes for the people of the North East, working with our health partners. All 12 local authorities are part of the early implementers network for the establishment of Health and Wellbeing Boards. Collectively, the Association has established a Task and Finish Group of elected members from the 12 authorities to carry out a rapid review of the opportunities and challenges presented by the Bill, and the key issues needing to be addressed; the Group is due to present its recommendations in early autumn.

3. The Association had a number of concerns about the Bill as originally published and raised these concerns as part of the Listening Exercise. We are pleased to note that the Government’s proposed amendments to the Bill include a number of changes for which the Association has lobbied, including the broadening of the membership of clinical commissioning groups and the duty placed on them to promote integrated services; the stronger role envisaged for Health and Wellbeing Boards with the clear expectation that commissioning plans will be in line with the Health and Wellbeing Strategy; safeguards against price competition and ‘cherry picking’; and the requirement on Monitor to protect and promote patients’ interests.

4. In this context we have some concern about the remarks of Professor Steve Field (Guardian, 28 June) that the changes could still leave hospitals vulnerable to European Union law, when it had appeared that this issue had been settled. No doubt the Public Bill Committee will wish to obtain expert advice on this issue as well as seeking clarification from the Government.

July 2011

Prepared 19th July 2011