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Quality accounts and direct payments in new Health Bill

By Steve Nowottny

The Government is to unveil plans for the implementation of Lord Darzi's NHS Next Stage Review in a new Health Bill to be published later today.

The Bill will include proposals to pilot direct payments to give patients greater choice over healthcare and to create new quality accounts which must be published by all NHS providers, including GP practices.

It will also place a duty on all providers of NHS services, including GPs, to have regard to the new NHS Constitution, and will ‘establish a regime for unsustainable NHS providers to protect patients and staff from failing services.'

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: ‘The Health Bill will strengthen the NHS – it will provide a legal framework for the vital reforms of the last few years, and especially those outlined in High Quality Care For All.'

‘People rightly have high expectations of the care the NHS offers, and they want more control over their own health – which is why the Bill will give more power to patients and drive up the quality of care.'

Health minister Lord Darzi said the Bill was 'an important next step in the implementation of my review of the NHS High Quality Care for All'.

He added: 'The measures in this Bill, such as quality accounts and innovation prizes, will help to ensure that the NHS is providing the highest possible quality of care to everyone.'

The NHS Confederation welcomed the direct payment pilots, which it said could ‘revolutionise the way in which care is delivered.'

NHS Confederation chief executive Steve Barnett said: ‘Putting money in the hands of patients could improve care planning and have a profound impact in areas such as end of life care, mental health or maternity services. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest health outcomes are improved when the patient is directly involved in making decisions about their treatment and the way in which care is delivered by NHS staff.'

'There are significant barriers that need to be overcome before this policy is rolled-out nationally: should patients be allowed to spend their personal budgets on non cost-effective treatments? Should individuals be allowed to top-up their care? Should patients be allowed to invest personal budgets to be spent at a later date?'

'Any pilots should consider these issues in more detail. Personal health budgets could revolutionise the way in which care is delivered, but they are not without risks.'

Health Bill will aim to implement the Darzi review recommendations

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