England & Wales Health and social care

The NHS “listening exercise”


The “listening exercise” on NHS reforms is being conducted by a newly-formed “NHS Future Forum” with a number of representatives from local government.

The ‘pause’ provides an opportunity for councils to give their views on the themes highlighted by the Department of Health, to make proposals that would increase democratic accountability in the forthcoming legislation and to stress the need for the legislation to facilitate rather than impede co-ordination across health, public health and social care.

The exercise has been dismissed by opposition critics and other commentators as a smokescreen to protect the coalition government from a backlash in the run-up to the local government elections.

Nonetheless, it does offer an opportunity for local government and other stakeholders to ensure that issues that might have been overlooked during parliamentary discussions of the Health and Social Care Bill remain on the agenda.

The Future Forum will be producing a report and this will need to reflect at least some of the views that have been publicly expressed on its website, as well as private submissions to the Forum by email. Therefore, it would seem to be a useful chance for local authorities to express their views on those aspects of the proposed reforms that most concern them to a Forum which has a significant number of local government members.

However, readers should not be too optimistic that the “listening” exercise will produce major changes to the legislation as currently drafted. One of the Forum members, Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of the patients’ organisation, National Voices, has publicly said that he doubts the Forum has the remit or the time than do more than tinker with minor aspects of the Health and Social Care Bill.

Nonetheless, some of those “minor aspects”, such as the membership of the Boards of GP Commissioning Consortia and Health and Wellbeing Boards, and the need for greater joint planning and co-ordination between health, public health and social care, could have more than minor significance from the perspective of local government and local democracy.

This post is based on a LGiU members briefing written by Fiona Campbell. Briefings are accessible to all officers and elected members of our member authorities. For more information on joining the Local Government Information Unit please follow this link