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Health Bill not 'set in aspic', says Lord Howe

Health Bill not 'set in aspic', says Lord Howe


The government is prepared to listen to "any concerns" raised by peers when the Health Bill reaches the House of Lords this autumn and could make further changes, according to a leading health minister.

Speaking exclusively to GP Business, Lord Howe, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Quality at the Department of Health, said: "We are not being precious about the bill and making out that it should be set in aspic as it is at the moment.

"The detail and the implementation really do matter, so ministers have not got a closed mind to making changes.

"We are a listening government, we will listen to any concerns raised by peers who come to the bill from a number of different perspectives and it could well be that we will make changes. I can't predict how big or small they will be but we, as much as their lordships, want to get this legislation right."

Lord Howe said the quality premium was one area he expected peers to debate when the bill reaches the House of Lords in October. The controversial incentive for GPs to commission well was rejected as "utterly unethical" by Dr Laurence Buckman, Chair of the BMA's GPs' Committee, in June.

"We're still designing what the quality premium should look like," said Lord Howe. "We're aware of sensitivity on the part of GPs, and I think that has got to be factored in to the way in which this is finally designed.

"We want to engage with the profession to make sure that anything we do come up with is something that they are comfortable with and that will genuinely incentivise good commissioning without throwing up problems."

Lord Howe also told GP Business that the new National Commissioning Board, headed by Sir David Nicholson, would "have its work cut out to make sure clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are appropriately authorised."

He rejected the view that the Board would impose tight control over CCGs. "This is not performance management," he said. "It's something very different in terms of the culture. You get that right then I think everybody's job will be made a lot easier."

The full interview with Lord Howe will be published in the Autumn issue of GP Business.


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