Department of Health and Social Care
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Health Act 2009 receives royal assent

A new law that will help to protect children and young people from the harms of tobacco received Royal Assent yesterday.

Provisions in the new Health Act 2009 mean that shops will no longer be allowed to display tobacco products, and enable the prohibition of sales of tobacco from vending machines. 

The Act also places a legal duty on the NHS and its providers to have regard to the NHS Constitution, which will safeguard the principles and values of the NHS for the future, and sets out the rights and responsibilities of patients and staff.

The Act will also enable the piloting of direct payments for healthcare, giving patients more choice and greater control over the care they receive, and improving the quality of health services.

Key measures in the Health Act 2009 will:

  • Strengthen tobacco control to protect children and young people from the harm caused by smoking;
  • Place a duty on all NHS bodies, private sector and third sector providers of NHS services to have regard to the NHS Constitution;
  • Pilot direct payments to give patients greater choice and control over their health care;
  • Introduce new powers to de-authorise Foundation Trusts in certain, exceptional, circumstances;
  • Create new quality accounts that will help improve the quality of health services;
  • Introduce innovation prizes to encourage an enterprise and innovation culture within the NHS;
  • Increase powers of suspension to strengthen our ability to hold to account those who fail to meet the requirements of public office;
  • Establish a regime for unsustainable NHS providers to protect patients and staff from failing services; and
  • Reform pharmacy services to ensure that pharmacies are providing high quality services based on local needs.

The Act also contains measures to extend the adult social care complaints procedure; a framework to allow HMRC to continue to share summarised and anonymised information on GP and dentist pay with the Department of Health; and corrects an error in legislation on optical vouchers, in line with longstanding policy on eligibility.   

Health Secretary Andy Burnham said:

"Ara Darzi’s Next Stage Review set a clear vision for the NHS.  The Health Act 2009 puts this into practice and strengthens the NHS, taking forward the vital reforms of the last few years. 

“Over the past 12 years we have seen major improvements in the NHS with shortest ever waiting times, more choice and greater access to health services.  The Act will help us to lock in the improvements we have already made for future generations, by ensuring that all NHS bodies must take account of the NHS Constitution, which protects the rights and responsibilities of patients and staff.

“The new laws passed today will help to prevent ill health caused by tobacco, give patients more choice and greater control over the care they receive and drive up the quality of care - helping the NHS go from good to great.”

The Health Act 2009 will come into effect over the next few months.  

Notes to editors

1.      For further media enquiries please contact the Department of Health Media Centre on 020 7210 5221. 

2.      The NHS Constitution was published on 21 January 2009 and is available at: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Healthcare/NHSConstitution/index.htm

3.      The Consultation on proposed tobacco control regulations for England (under the Health Bill 2009) was published on 12 October 2009 and can be found at: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Consultations/Liveconsultations/DH_106454

4.      A consultation on direct payments for healthcare was published on 23 October 2009 and can be found at: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Consultations/Liveconsultations/DH_107425

5.      The Department of Health’s consultation on the de-authorisation of Foundation Trusts can be found at: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Consultations/Responsestoconsultations/DH_106719

6.      The Department of Health’s consultation on suspension powers can be found at: www.dh.gov.uk/en/Consultations/Responsestoconsultations/DH_09323

7.      The Department of Health’s consultation on pharmacy in England can be found at: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Consultations/Closedconsultations/DH_087324

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