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Health Bill receives Royal Assent

The Government's Health and Social Care Bill has cleared its final hurdle and is now law, after receiving Royal Assent.

The legislation - first published as a white paper in July 2010 – is now known as the Health and Social Care Act (2012).

The Act finally completed its lengthy passage today, following months of fierce debate in the Lords and the Commons, and an on-going battle by Labour, the medical profession and a host of campaigners to force the Government into dropping the bill.

Last year, the Government took the almost unprecedented step of announcing a 'pause' to the legislation and established the NHS Future Forum to consult further on the changes, in an attempt to head off the fierce criticism it was receiving.

The news came as a leaked copy of the Department of Health's risk register for the reforms warned the Government faced a future battle over its plans to introduce a controversial quality premium, with the GPC fiercely opposed to any attempt to tie practice income to clinical commissioning group performance.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said the Act would ‘reduce the costs of bureaucracy'.

‘We now have an opportunity to secure clinical leadership to deliver improving quality and outcomes; better results for patients is our objective.'

Professor Steve Field, chair of the NHS Future Forum, said: ‘It was a tremendous privilege to be able to chair the Independent NHS Future Forum. All the comments and debate that we heard helped improve the bill.'

‘What's vital now is that the Government continues to work closely with them to put the freedoms the Bill offers into practice.'

But the news was met with despondency by the bill's army of critics. Labour NHS spokesperson Lord Philip Hunt wrote on Twitter: ‘Royal Assent announced for health bill in Lords. Gloom and despair is general mood.'

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