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Health Act 1999

The National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990

34.The 1990 Act introduced a number of changes in the systems described above.

35.Section 5 of the 1990 Act, and the immediately following provisions, provided for the setting up of bodies known as NHS trusts. These are semi-autonomous bodies set up to assume responsibility for the ownership and management of hospitals or other establishments or facilities previously managed or provided by a Health Authority; or to provide and manage hospitals or other establishments or facilities which were not previously so managed or provided. A trust’s functions are conferred by its establishment order made under section 5(1) of and by Schedule 2 to the 1990 Act. Some NHS trusts, known as “acute trusts” provide mainly hospital services. Other NHS trusts, known as “community trusts” provide mainly community services. Those which provide both hospital and community services are often known as “integrated trusts”.

36.All the NHS hospitals in the country are now run by NHS trusts. NHS trusts have no money paid to them directly by the Secretary of State, but instead obtain orders for their services placed by Health Authorities and GP fund-holders. The nature of the arrangements between Health Authorities and trusts is, however, not that of an ordinary contract enforceable at law. Instead, the 1990 Act provided for a system of NHS contracts (section 4), which are explicitly not contracts enforceable at law (section 4(3)), but are subject to arbitration by the Secretary of State.

37.A further change introduced by the 1990 Act was the creation of fund-holding practices of GPs providing services under Part II of the 1977 Act. The fund-holding system did not essentially alter the Part II services they provide. However, the practices in question are given a sum of money known as an allotted sum with which to purchase, on behalf of their patients, from whatever provider they see fit, some of the care under Part I which would otherwise have been purchased by the local Health Authority. Thus there are two types of purchaser or commissioner of services: namely Health Authorities and fund-holding practices.

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