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Policy update, July 2017

This is your monthly round-up of recent national health policy developments for 9 June to 10 July.

If you have any comments or if there is anything else you would like to see in the round-up please contact us at policy@rcog.org.uk

News/Announcements

The Department of Health has announced its new ministerial health team following the general election. Jeremy Hunt MP remains as Secretary of State with Philip Dunne continuing as Minister of State for Health and Lord O’Shaughnessy as the Under Secretary of State for the House of Lords.  Steve Brine MP joins the department as the Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Primary Care, and Jackie Doyle-Price MP has become the Under Secretary of State for Care and Mental Health.

The Queen delivered her speech to Parliament, setting out the government’s legislative programme for the 2017-19 session. In total it contained 21 Bills, eight of which focussed on Brexit.

Among the Bills announced are:

  • Draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill – which will establish a Domestic Violence and Abuse Commissioner; define domestic abuse in law; create a new domestic abuse civil prevention and protection order; and ensure that courts can take into account impacts abusive behaviour might have had on a child when sentencing. The Common’s Library has produced an up to date briefing on domestic violence and the Bill.
  • Draft Patient Safety Bill – which will establish the Health Service Safety Investigation Body (HSSIB) to conduct independent and impartial investigations into patient safety risks in the NHS; and create a prohibition on the disclosure of information held in connection with an investigation conducted by the HSSIB, enabling participants to be as candid as possible.

Following pressure from a group of cross-party MPs led by Labour’s Stella Creasy, the government has now agreed to fund abortions for women from Northern Ireland travelling to England. This will be funded through the Government Equalities Office with the Department of Health commissioning the services.

The BMA voted in favour of decriminalisation of abortion at their Annual Representative Meeting. The motion argued that abortion should be decriminalised in respect to health professionals, women procuring and administering means of their own abortion and that abortion should be regulated in the same way as other medical treatments. The BMA will now campaign for these policies to be implemented.

Statistics

The Department of Health have published their annual Abortion Statistics for England and Wales in 2016. The data shows that there were 190,406 abortions carried out in England and Wales in 2016, slightly lower than in 2015.

NHS Digital have released their quarterly smoking in pregnancy statistics, which shows that 10.5% of pregnant women were known to be smokers at the time of delivery. This compares to 10.6% for the previous year (2015/16), and is down from 15.1% in 2006/07

Information and Guidance

The House of Commons Library has produced a briefing paper on NHS expenditure, explaining the structure of the NHS and how it’s financed. Expenditure on the NHS has risen rapidly and consistently since it was established on 5th July 1948. In the first full year of its operation, the Government spent £11.4bn on health in the UK. In 2015/16, the figure was over ten times that amount: £138.7bn.

Consultations

The Sentencing Council are seeking views on their draft guidelines for child cruelty offences, including FGM.  The Council want to know that factors should influence the sentencing of someone who has failed to protect a girl from FGM. The consultation is open until 13 September and can be responded to online.