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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 October 2005, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
What the Health Bill will mean
Ministers have unveiled a wide-ranging Health Bill to parliament.

It covers topics as diverse as MRSA and smoking. A look at what the new legislation will mean and why it is being introduced.

SMOKING BAN

Smoking
Full smoking bans are being introduced in Scotland and Northern Ireland

Last year's Public Health White Paper outlined plans for a smoking ban across workplaces in England after pressure from health professionals and campaigners who argued second-hand smoke was harming workers.

Under the original proposals only private members clubs and pubs which do not serve food would have been exempt.

But the subsequent consultation raised concerns pubs, especially in poor areas, would stop serving food to avoid the ban - widening health inequalities - and whether a one metre smoke-free exclusion zone around bars was enough to protect workers in those pubs.

Weeks of discussion at cabinet level followed during the autumn of this year in which various proposals were discussed.

In the end, it was decided to give MPs a free vote on three options:

  • Total ban in all pubs and private members' clubs

  • Ban in licensed premises except non-food-serving pubs and members' clubs

  • Smoking ban for all premises except private members' clubs

There will be a full review of the ban within three years, the Department of Health has said.

A full ban is already in place in the Republic of Ireland, and bans are proposed for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

CONTROLLED DRUGS

Dame Janet Smith's inquiry into the Shipman murders found there was a need for "modernisation and rationalisation" of the controlled drugs systems, which covers drugs such as diamorphine (medical heroin) and sedatives such as barbiturates.

She said there has been virtually no revision of legislation relating to controlled drugs since the 1970s.

And this system had allowed the GP, who killed up to 275 people over a 23-year period, to obtain large amounts of diamorphine undetected.

The bill makes a number of proposals, including giving health managers the right to enter GP premises, allowing closer scrutiny of doctors.

At the moment the law in the area is unclear, and means managers cannot insist on entering surgeries.

The NHS is also being given a duty to work with other authorities such as social services and police in cases where controlled drugs are misused.

Primary care trusts, which are in charge of commissioning services from GPs, should also have an officer with responsibility for controlled drugs.

HOSPITAL INFECTIONS

Image of hospital cleaning
Hospitals will have to adhere to tighter hygiene regulations

The bill will also tackle one of the most controversial problems facing health services - hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA.

MRSA, which is linked to nearly 1,000 deaths a year, has dogged the NHS in recent years with concerns about hospital cleanliness.

Included in the document is legislation binding hospitals, care homes and other NHS services to a new hygiene code of conduct.

While hygiene standards are taken into account during hospital inspections, NHS trusts do not have a statutory duty to ensure standards are adhered to.

The bill gives the Healthcare Commission powers to issue improvement notices, and if trusts fail to comply managers could lose their jobs or face intervention from the government or Monitor, in the case of foundation trusts.

The code, which will be constantly updated, sets certain standards for things such as hand washing and cleaning wards.

PHARMACIES

Pharmacists are set to play an ever increasing role in health care in coming years.

They are being encouraged to become involved in care traditionally considered outside their remit such as blood pressure testing, diabetes care and providing smoking cessation clinics.

The bill sets out changes to pharmacist training programmes to reflect this.

And it also reforms the requirements set out in the NHS Act 1977 regarding the supervision required by pharmacists.

At the moment they are effectively tied to the dispensing counter so they can issue prescriptions.

But the bill proposes allowing other staff such as pharmacy technicians to hand out drugs as long as the pharmacists ensures a safe system is kept to.




SEE ALSO
Ministers 'deal on smoking ban'
25 Oct 05 |  UK Politics
Hospital hygiene shake-up planned
17 May 05 |  UK Politics

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