This is what a Dept of Health and Social Care Media Officer told me when I called to check this story:
“It’s just a leak. It’s speculation so we’re not commenting on it. We’re still working up the Future Funding Settlement.”
He then emailed the official Departmental line.
‘A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said:
“The Prime Minister and Health and Social Care Secretary have already committed to a fully funded, long-term plan for the NHS, which will be agreed with NHS leaders, clinicians, and health experts.”
What about MPs? Don’t they get a look in?
The Department of Health “official line” email continues:
“· The recently published NHS Mandate confirms performance targets remain a priority for the Government.
· The Government supported the NHS this winter with an additional £437million of funding, and gave it top priority in the recent Budget with an extra £2.8bn allocated over the next two years.
· The Prime Minister has said long-term funding plans will come forward for the NHS ahead of next year’s Spending Review, which will be done in conjunction with NHS leaders, clinicians and health experts.”
In this Judicial Review, Protect the NHS campaigners argue that the Dept of Health and NHS England are acting unlawfully through the 2017/18-2018/9 Accountable Organisation contract, which would transfer Clinical Commissioning Groups’ powers and responsibilities to Accountable Care Organisation providers. There is also a further ground: that NHSE and the Secretary of State are not acting in accordance with public law, in breaching the duty of transparency and clarity.
Looking at that headline again – 2012 Health and Social Care Act “reforms” could be on the way out if the Accountable Care Organisation contracts are allowed in. They are modelled on 10-15 year commercial contracts – meaning any government would have a very hard time changing things because a contract would be in place that is two or three times the length of any given Parliament. Kind of like PFI, but for NHS services instead of buildings. So democratic accountability will have been removed from the NHS.
In a typically government–propagandist piece of reporting, Laura Kuenssberg writes:
“No-one anywhere near it in Whitehall and Westminster wants another enormous set of administrative changes.”
As if Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships and their mutation into Accountable Care Ducks weren’t an enormous set of administrative changes.
What’s the betting that this rumoured scrapping of bits of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act isn’t to bring in legislation to allow Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships/Accountable Care Ducks to become statutory bodies? Because it’s proving impossible to carry out the “workarounds” of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act that the House of Commons Health Select Committee Chair Sarah Wollaston pleaded for so many times in the Tuesday 27th February meeting of the Health Select Committee inquiry into Accountable Care Ducks?
And that were so robustly and accurately shot down by MP Rosie Cooper – who pointed out that “workaround” means “fiddle”.
The Tories’ 2017 General Election manifesto promised legislation for Accountable Care Organisations – and the the Tory government backed down from this commitment when they didn’t get a House of Commons majority.
Since then, Sarah Wollaston, the Chair of the Health Select Committee, has been doing her darnedest with the Health Select Committee Inquiry into Accountable Care Ducks and STPs to build cross party consensus to drive through the Accountable Care Duck changes.
Maybe she now reckons she’s achieved that and the govt thinks they can push through legislation even without a majority? Probably by secondary legislation. That’s just my guess.
At a Kings Fund breakfast event on 19 October 2017 to assess the prospects for health and social care under the minority government, Sarah Wollaston MP endorsed the Kings Fund/Barker Commission on the integration of NHS and social care, making this central to her agenda for:
- a cross party consensus on NHS and social care
- a driving role for cross party select committees – particularly a new Liaison select committee, when set up (which she has now become chair of)
- no major NHS and social care legislation;
- secondary legislation to put Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships on statutory footing.
Secondary legislation is when the government introduces new laws and regulations without putting it before Parliament for the normal process of debate and scrutiny. This is how Jeremy Hunt plans to “lay regulations” to make it possible to set up Accountable Care Organisations/Systems/Partnerships.