HSJ Exclusive: No 10 tells Hancock ‘wait until 2021’ for NHS law change

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  • Officials now expecting government proposals to be published in 2021
  • DHSC move to legislate quickly was dropped
  • Proposals expected to include formalisation of ICS and power of direction over NHS England

Major health legislation to give government a tighter grip on the NHS is now very unlikely to reach Parliament this year, after a move to rapidly pass a bill this summer by health secretary Matt Hancock was rejected by No 10, HSJ understands.

Several well placed central sources have told HSJ that government proposals would now not be laid this calendar year, as had previously been expected.

They said the Department of Health and Social Care had worked on proposals to rapidly pass a bill through Parliament before its summer break.

But this was blocked by 10 Downing Street after the prime minister’s advisers took soundings from stakeholders and weighed up the risk of trying to pass controversial legislation while winter pressures and a possible covid second wave buffeted the NHS.

Instead, the DHSC will now work on proposals to be put forward next year, it is understood.

In September, NHS England asked government to make legal changes which would effectively unpick large parts of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. They included removing competition and procurement rules; allowing NHS England and NHS Improvement to merge; and enabling providers and commissioners to work closely together through joint committees. These could be used for governing integrated care systems.

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Source: HSJ
Date: 17 July 2020