With the announcement of a snap general election came ‘parliamentary wash-up’, a term used to refer to the last few days of a parliament when legislation passing through the parliamentary process must either be dropped or rushed through.
We take a look at what this period means for the NHS.
Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Act 2017
The Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill 2017 received Royal Assent and became an ‘Act’ on 27 April.
The Act, which was broadly supported by the opposition parties, aims to give the government more control over the cost of health service medicines and other medical supplies by:
- Aligning the current statutory medicines pricing scheme, which applies to branded medicines, into line with the voluntary scheme: the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS).
- Removing a loophole that meant the government could not apply price controls to the unbranded generic medicines of those companies who are members of the PPRS.
- Enable the Secretary of State to make regulations to obtain information about health service medicines and other supplies from all parts of the supply chain.
Private Members’ Bills
Due to the dissolution of parliament, a number health-related Private Members’ Bills (PMB) will make no further progress and will be dropped.
These include bills on issues such as palliative care, radiotherapy, assisted dying, defibrillators, diabetes, national data guardians, perinatal mental illness and the regulation of health and social care professions.
PMBs rarely make it into Acts of Parliament, but they can be useful vehicles to stimulate debates around particular issues.
Select Committees ‘dissolved’
The current select committees are officially dissolved with the end of the parliament, with new chairs and committee members elected post-election.
Health Select Committee
Having served only three years as health select committee chair, Sarah Wollaston is able to stand again as long as the Conservative Party is still entitled to hold the chairmanship of the Health Select Committee. Chairs of committees are designated by the Speaker according party proportions in the Commons.
A flurry of select committee reports were released ahead the dissolution of parliament, when the committees officially cease to exist. The Health Select Committee published its first report into Brexit, highlighting the importance of ensuring the NHS is high on the government’s priority list during the negotiations.
Danny Mortimer, NHS Employers chief executive, provided oral evidence to the committee and called for the government to provide existing NHS EU workers with a guarantee that they can remain living and working in the UK.
We expect the next Health Select Committee to revisit the issues of Brexit, and STPs, at some point in the next parliament.
Public Accounts Committee
The Public Accounts Committee released three health-related reports on the same day – including a report on health and social care integration which NHS Confederation chair Stephen Dorrell, provided oral evidence for.
The committee called the Better Care Fund “little more than a complicated ruse to transfer money from health to local government to paper over the funding pressures on adult social care”.
It did, however, include NHS Confederation points about allowing STPs time to develop new governance structures and the relationships that underpin them, and that the lack of coterminosity between STP and local authority boundaries in some areas makes engagement tricky.