Published Tue, 2011-06-14 16:49; updated 2 years ago.

The Government has accepted the core recommendations of the independent Future Forum, chaired by Birmingham GP Prof Steve Field.

The key changes it will make to the Health and Social Care Bill include:

  • Affirming that ministers, not GPs, are ultimately responsible for the health service.
  • Changing the role of Monitor so its core duty will be to protect and promote the interests of patients – not to promote competition as an end in itself.
  • Safeguarding against price completion, cherry-picking and privatization.
  • Including nurses and hospital doctors in commissioning. 
  • Slowing the pace of change down. Commissioning groups will be set up by April 2013, but if they are not ready to commission, the NHS Commissioning Board will commission on their behalf.
  • Ensuring continuity in education and training. More details will be announced in the autumn.

The NHS Future Forum was set up in April to hear concerns and make recommendations about the Government's Health and Social Care Bill  - but now the Government has announced the Forum's role will continue. It will continue to lead on listening in the NHS, ensuring an effective communication channel with the NHS. 

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) said: "We are pleased that the government has accepted the Future Forum’s core recommendations, and that there will be significant revisions to the Health and Social Care Bill.

"We will need to look carefully at the details of the changes, but it seems clear that what we are likely to see is a very different Bill, and one which puts the reforms on a better track. The success of the reforms will very much depend on how the various elements link together and work on a practical level, and on how much they engage clinicians and patients locally."

Chief Executive of The King’s Fund, Chris Ham said: "Today’s announcement signals a more promising approach to meeting the health challenges of the future than the proposals originally set out in the Health and Social Care Bill.

"The confirmation of the Prime Minister’s pledge to keep waiting times low, and the emphasis placed on the 18-week maximum wait for hospital treatment enshrined in the NHS Constitution, leaves the NHS with a very significant challenge.

"With the spending squeeze beginning to bite, the number of hospital inpatients waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment is already at its highest level for more than three years and waiting times for A&E and diagnostic services have also risen. As the government has said that it is opposed to targets, it now needs to be clear about how this pledge will be measured and enforced.

"Although we need to see the proposed amendments to the Bill, there is much to welcome in the detail of today’s announcement, including the emphasis on clinical commissioning, a more nuanced approach to competition and an evolutionary approach to implementing the reforms.

"However, the sheer number of changes being made to the structure of the health system risks creating confusion and additional bureaucracy. The government will need to specify very clearly how these bodies will operate and work together."