Health Services: Overview and Scrutiny Committees

Health written question – answered on 21st April 2008.

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Photo of Gordon Prentice Gordon Prentice Labour, Pendle

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make it his policy to allow the representation of district councils on county and unitary health overview and scrutiny committees.

Photo of Ann Keen Ann Keen Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Health Services), Department of Health

District councils may participate in health scrutiny in a variety of ways. Although district councils do not have the powers to review and scrutinise health services, there are opportunities for them to become involved in joint committees through co-option and to have the functions delegated to them.

Joint committees may be established by two or more local authorities (LAs) including two-tier district councils for both a specific scrutiny review, and for on-going scrutiny planning and review.

County councils may co-opt members of overview and scrutiny committees from district councils to participate as full members of the county overview and scrutiny committee considering health services. Councillors who are members of a district council executive are, by definition, not scrutiny members and therefore cannot be co-opted onto the county council health overview and scrutiny committee, nor can district councillors who are not members of an overview and scrutiny committee. Councillors who fall into these categories and who may have a role to play in a scrutiny process may participate in other ways, for example by providing information to the committee or attending as an expert witness.

A LA may also arrange for its overview and scrutiny functions to be undertaken by a committee from another LA. The regulations enable the delegation of scrutiny functions between LAs including from county council to district council overview and scrutiny committees. When delegation takes place, the full powers of overview and scrutiny of health services are given to the delegated committee but only in relation to the specific delegated function.

Further information and guidance is provided in "Overview and Scrutiny of Health Guidance—July 2003", copies of the guidance are available in the Library.

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