The government has declared that its proposals to remove powers of health scrutiny from independent local scrutiny committees ‘was flawed’, and that it proposed new health and wellbeing boards and GP Commissioning arrangements should be subject to external scrutiny by elected councillors.
Tamarind Chambers had in its submission on the White Paper strongly opposed the initial proposals to change health scrutiny, and welcomes the government’s new-found commitment to its retention and development. This u-turn has been widely welcomed by local Councils, community groups and independent commentators.
The Health White Paper had proposed that the new health and wellbeing boards could take on the role of health scrutiny, and that the powers of health scrutiny that allow local council scrutiny committees to operate would no longer be required.
However, Tamarind Chambers, along with many others, had pointed out that the current health scrutiny arrangements had proved their value in bringing much-needed accountability and independent challenge to the NHS and enabled genuine public engagement; whereas the health and wellbeing board, with its strategic role in commissioning services, would not be able to provide independent scrutiny, and should actually be subject to scrutiny itself.
In ‘Liberating the NHS: Legislative framework and next steps’, which describes how it will take forward the proposals set out in the Health White Paper, the Government says that it will not transfer scrutiny function to the health and wellbeing board, to maintain the distinction between executive and scrutiny functions; and that it will actually extend the powers of local authority health scrutiny to cover any provider of NHS-funded services as well as any NHS commissioner.