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Health Bill set to become law by Easter

By News team

Proposed reforms to the NHS in England are set to become law before Easter after the Government’s controversial Health and Social Care Bill completed its passage through Parliament this week.

Yesterday (20 March 2012), Labour ministers made a last-ditch attempt to delay the Bill reaching the statute books after it received final approval from the House of Lords earlier in the week.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham led yesterday’s 90-minute emergency debate, demanding that the Bill should not be sent for royal assent until the transition “risk register” is published. The register, which the Government has so far refused to publish, gives civil servants’ assessment of risks that the NHS faces in England during transition to the reformed structure.

However, Labour’s call for a delay was rejected by 82 votes — with 328 MPs voting against and 246 for the stoppage — and the amended Bill was approved for passing to the Queen for royal assent. The Bill is expected to become law some time before Easter, a House of Commons spokeswoman told The Journal.

The Bill has taken more than a year to gain parliamentary approval and has had more than 1,000 amendments since it was first published last January.

Chairman of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board Lindsey Gilpin said the RPS will develop a programme of work to help members influence the new NHS structures.

She added: “Members have underlined to us the importance of ensuring that we continue to press the Government on the commissioner and provider split, [ensuring] a level playing field for pharmacy in terms of commissioning, getting pharmacy representation at all levels within the new NHS, reducing the potential for fragmentation of services and retaining the expertise of primary care pharmacists.”

Mike Holden, spokesman for Pharmacy Voice, said the new NHS bodies, in particular the NHS Commissioning Board, will provide “an opportunity for cumbersome, duplicative local processes to be standardised and red tape to be reduced”. He said local professional networks could enable “meaningful” pharmacy engagement in the commissioning process.

“Pharmacy must now accelerate efforts to engage with emerging commissioners, including those in local authorities, who will have a handle on ring-fenced public health monies,” he advised. 

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 11097736

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