Health secretary will no longer be obliged to provide health service under new bill, says legal opinion

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 31 August 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5525
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

The health secretary for England would no longer be obliged to provide a health service under the Health and Social Care Bill currently going through parliament, legal opinions obtained by members of a campaigning group, 38 Degrees, have confirmed.

After the “listening exercise” led by the Future Forum, the body appointed to review the bill, the government said that it would be amended to make it clear that the secretary of state would remain responsible for “promoting a comprehensive health service,” the same wording as in the existing act. But Stephen Cragg, a London barrister, says that the effect would be different in the new bill.

This is because Section 3(1) of the existing act—which enjoins the health secretary to “provide throughout England, to such extent as he considers necessary …

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