In the first of series of blogs on the NHS White Paper, we consider the new proposals for service reconfigurations.
Under theme three: Ensuring accountability and enhancing public confidence of the Department of Health and Social Care's White Paper, you will find proposals on reconfigurations.
Always a controversial topic!
As readers will know, the Secretary of State is currently only able to intervene in such cases upon receiving a local authority referral and may commission the Independent Reconfiguration Panel to provide recommendations.
The White Paper explains that, after receiving these, the Secretary of State will communicate his final decision. Whilst the paper says that this can help with difficult cases it makes the point that referrals can often come very late in the process leading to difficult debates and lengthy processes. The Government is concerned that this leaves ministers in the position of having to account for service changes in Parliament without having been meaningfully engaged on them themselves.
The proposal is therefore to broaden the scope for potential ministerial intervention in reconfigurations by allowing the Secretary of State to intervene at any point of the reconfiguration process.
Expect to see statutory guidance on how this process will work.
We are told that this would mean that the Independent Reconfiguration Panel would be replaced by new arrangements.
Finally, the paper states that it is not anticipated this power being used with great frequency.