Yesterday, the Government published two papers relevant to health reform in England, saying they should be read in conjunction with each other.
They produced a command paper in response to the Health Committee's report on commissioning (published 5 April) while the Department of Health issued a detailed response to the NHS Future Forum report on the NHS 'listening exercise' (published 13 June).
Key points made in the response to the NHS Future Forum are:
- new safeguards will be introduced against price competition, privatisation and private companies cherry-picking profitable NHS business
- all patient rights in the NHS Constitution will be upheld, including “the right to drugs and treatments recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which we will retain after the introduction of value-based pricing for new drugs from January 2014”
- GP commissioning consortiums (or clinical commissioning groups as they are now to be called) should include at least one nurse, a hospital doctor and two members of the public in their boards
- there will be stronger duties on commissioners to promote care that is integrated around the needs of users, eg. by extending personal health budgets and joint health and social care budgets
- a new "duty of candour" will be written into the contracts of NHS care providers and hospitals, requiring them to tell patients when they have made mistakes
the NHS regulator, Monitor, now has a duty to promote the interest of patients when it comes to competition
- failing hospitals will no longer be bailed out using taxpayers’ money, and ministers will be given more power to make ad hoc decisions on which services to save based on public reaction and the likely consequences of failure.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said, “It was right that we took the time to pause, listen, reflect and improve our plans and I believe our proposals are now stronger thanks to this process.
“I have accepted the recommendations from the team of top health experts because they will improve care for patients. The last few weeks have shown broad agreement that there is an overwhelming case for a modernised NHS, and that the principles of putting patients at the centre, focusing on results and putting professionals in charge are the right ones.”