Press release

Lord Howe launches consultation on health scrutiny

New proposals to update local authority health and overview scrutiny were set out today by Health Minister Lord Howe.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The current scrutiny arrangements needs to take account of the new structural changes created by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 such as the introduction of clinical commissioning groups, Health and Wellbeing Boards and HealthWatch.

The consultation will build on the existing system of health scrutiny and will ask for feedback on improving it further in light of the health reforms.

Lord Howe said:

“Our Health and Social Care Act aims to ensure we have a modern health service that works around patients and meets the healthcare needs of the local population.

“That’s why local authorities will play a key role under the new structure and I want patients and the public to be at the heart of planning, delivery and any changes to healthcare services.

“We have set out a range of proposals through this consultation to help achieve this but we want a full debate. Any final decisions will be taken after we have fully considered the consultation responses.”

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 will give local authorities greater flexibility and freedom by giving health scrutiny functions to the local authority itself rather than to overview and scrutiny committees specifically. It will also extend the scope of health scrutiny to include all NHS and public health services.

The consultation will seek views on whether health service reconfiguration and referrals should also include a:

• requirement for local authorities and the NHS to agree and publish clear timescales for making a decision on whether a proposal should be referred;

• new intermediate referral stage to the NHS Commissioning Board for some service reconfigurations;

• requirement for local authorities to take account of the financial sustainability of services when considering a referral, in addition to issues of safety, effectiveness and the patient experience; and

• requirement for health scrutiny to obtain the agreement of the full council before a referral can be made.

The consultation will be open for responses from 12th July to 7th September Any person or organisation with an interest is encouraged to respond.


Notes to Editors:

1. For more details on the consultation - a copy can be found on our website.

2. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 gained Royal Assent on March 27 2012. The Act will:

• Ensure a focus on integration: There will be strong duties on the health service to promote integration of services;

• Strengthen public health: Giving responsibility for local public health services to local authorities will ensure that they are able to pull together the work done by the NHS, social care, housing, environmental health, leisure and transport services;

• Give patients more information and choice: Patients will have greater information on how the NHS is performing and the range of providers they can choose for their healthcare. And they will have a stronger voice through Healthwatch England and local Healthwatch;

• Strengthen local democratic involvement: Power will shift from Whitehall to town hall - there will be at least one locally elected councillor and a representative of Healthwatch on every Health and Wellbeing Board, to influence and challenge commissioning decisions and promote integrated health and care;

• Reduce bureaucracy: Two layers of management - Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities - will be removed through the Act, saving £4.5 billion over the lifetime of this Parliament, with every penny being reinvested in patient care.

3. HealthWatch will be a powerful new national champion for patients, ensuring that their voice is heard at the top table. Local HealthWatch groups will also ensure that patient complaints are dealt with at a local level.

4. Clinical Commissioning Groups will bring together leading doctors and nurses to design services around the needs of local people.

5. Health and Wellbeing Boards will bring together experts on health, social care and public health with locally elected councillors and HealthWatch representatives.

6. For media enquiries please contact Shumon Rahman at the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5433. For public enquiries, please contact 020 7210 4850.

Published 12 July 2012