Further Health Bill changes to appease Lib Dems

 The Government has again made amendments to its Health and Social Care Bill as it attempts to address Liberal Democrat concerns.

Further safeguards have been added over private patient income and to clarify and extend the compliance powers of Monitor over foundation trusts.

Health Minister Earl Howe hopes the amendments will provide “ongoing reassurance that the NHS will always operate in the interests of patients”.

However, the series of amendments which have been added to the Bill during its passage through Lords are still not enough for certain Liberal Democrats. Activists are aiming to hold a vote to axe the reforms at the party’s spring conference later this week.

The amendments to the powers of Monitor will now see it able to direct foundation trusts to change their boards when there are concerns it “will fail to comply with the conditions of its licence”, said Earl Howe.

Although it will not maintain its existing compliance regime over trusts, it will mean the regulator continues its extensive powers over foundation trusts until the health secretary makes a parliamentary order.

Changes have also been made on the issue of trusts benefiting from income from private patients. The amendments will now mean trusts will have to declare annual plans to increase non-NHS income. If these plans aim to increase income by five percentage points of overall income, the Department of Health would then have to agree to the proposals.

“The principles of our modernisation plans – doctors and nurses making decisions, patients being at the heart of the health system, and less bureaucracy – have always been at the core of the Bill,” said Earl Howe.

“These principles are widely accepted according to the independent NHS Future Forum. We will continue to work with peers to provide the reassurance and clarity necessary as the Health Bill progresses through Parliament.”

The controversial Health Bill returns to the Lords this afternoon.