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Health and Social Care Act 2001

Section 7: Functions of overview and scrutiny committees

52.This section provides for local authority overview and scrutiny committees to exercise new functions in relation to the NHS and NHS bodies. In particular, it enables such a committee to review and scrutinise the operation of the health service in its area.

53.Local authority overview and scrutiny committees (OSCs) are to be established under section 21 of the Local Government Act 2000. These committees are part of the arrangements for local authorities under Part II of that Act. Under these arrangements, local authorities may establish an executive to perform particular functions and to implement the plans and policies approved by the authority. The executive may take one of four forms –

  • an elected mayor and cabinet executive consisting of 2 or more councillors;

  • a council leader and cabinet executive consisting of 2 or more councillors;

  • an elected mayor and an officer of the authority appointed as the council manager;

  • such other form as may be prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State.

54.An overview and scrutiny committee is a committee of the authority made up of councillors who are not members of the executive. The committee’s functions are to review and scrutinise the decisions and other actions of the executive or the authority itself, and to make reports or recommendations to the authority or executive with respect to the discharge of functions by the executive or authority. In addition, the committee may make reports and recommendations to the authority or executive on matters which affect the authority’s area or its inhabitants.

55.Subsection (1) confers on some of these committees the additional functions of reviewing and scrutinising health service matters and making reports and recommendations to NHS bodies on such matters. These functions will not be conferred on all overview and scrutiny committees; the provisions only apply to committees of county councils, county borough councils in Wales, unitary authorities and London borough councils (see subsection (2)). These are the authorities that also hold responsibility for social services. District Councils will be able to contribute to the scrutiny of the NHS through joint arrangements with the authorities set out above (see section 8).

56.The detail of how the committees are to operate and the matters which they may review and scrutinise are to be set out in regulations under subsection (3). HAs would be required to consult OSCs on major service changes and Chief Executives of local NHS bodies will be required to attend OSC meetings at least twice a year. It is intended that overview and scrutiny committee functions will include referring contested proposals for major service changes to the Secretary of State on the grounds of process and merit. A new Independent Reconfiguration Panel is being established to advise the Secretary of State on proposals referred to him in this way and its membership will include clinicians, patient representatives and NHS managers.

57.OSCs will scrutinise not only health services, but also social care services provided or commissioned by NHS bodies exercising local authority functions under arrangements under section 31 of the Health Act 1999 (see subsection (5)). OSCs may scrutinise local authority social services under the existing provisions of the Local Government Act 2000.

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