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NHS reforms finally become law

The Government's controversial reforms to the NHS have become law after a tortuous 14-month passage through Parliament, when the Queen granted Royal Assent to the Health and Social Care Bill.

Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle's announcement in the House of Commons that assent had been given was greeted by cries of "shame" from opposition Labour MPs.

The proposals were first tabled in Parliament in January 2011, but were subjected to an unprecedented "pause" last year as Health Secretary Andrew Lansley struggled to secure the support of healthcare workers, and were amended more than 1,000 times during a lengthy passage through the House of Lords.

The new rules mean the Government can create GP commissioning groups to buy health care for patients and scrap Primary Care Trusts (PCTs).

Labour has bitterly opposed the passage of the new law, insisting it threatens the foundation of the NHS and paves the way for private services to get too involved.

A leaked draft risk register showed that ministers were warned 18 months ago of the risk that the reforms could lead to a loss of financial control, reduced productivity and emergencies being less well managed.

The Department of Health, which refused to comment on Tuesday's leak, has resisted a ruling from the Information Commissioner that it should release the final version of the risk register in response to a freedom of information request from Labour.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the document showed that ministers were warned before they launched the Bill that it was "likely to cause major damage to the NHS".

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We do not comment on leaks. We have always been open about risk and have published all relevant information in the impact assessments alongside the Bill.

"As the latest performance figures show, we are dealing with those risks, performance is improving - waiting times are down and mixed-sex wards are at an all-time low - and we are on course to make the efficiency savings that the NHS needs to safeguard it for the future."


From Belfast Telegraph