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This House of Commons Library briefing paper provides information on the NHS (Charitable Trusts Etc.) Bill (Bill 11 201516).

Wendy Morton presented this Bill on 24 June 2015, having come fifth in the Private Members’ Bill ballot. The Bill received its Commons Second Reading on Friday 6 November 2015, where the Government and the Labour Opposition confirmed their support for the Bill. No amendments were tabled during a short debate at Committee stage on 2 December 2015. The Bill is due to receive its Commons Report Stage on 22 January 2016.

The Bill aims to reduce the Department of Health’s involvement in NHS charities (charities linked to NHS bodies). Specifically it makes provision for the removal of the Secretary of State’s long-standing powers (currently under the National Health Service Act 2006, as amended) to appoint trustees. The Bill also contains provisions to ensure that a new independent Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity can receive royalties in relation to performances or publications of the play Peter Pan (JM Barrie gave the hospital rights to the royalties in 1929).  This right is currently conferred on the special trustees appointed by the Secretary of State for the existing NHS Charity and the Bill would transfer these rights to the new Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.

NHS charities’ funding supports innovation and research and enables the provision of additional facilities, services and equipment. As well as raising their own funds, they are also the automatic recipients of money the public donate to NHS bodies. Like the hospitals they are linked with the history of many hospital charities pre-dates the creation of the NHS in 1948.

There are currently around 260 NHS charities with considerable variation of size across the sector. The top 30 NHS charities accounted for over two‐thirds of total NHS charity income/assets. The vast majority of NHS charities use the corporate trustee model. The Secretary of State has appointed separate trustees to 20 NHS charities, including most of the largest charities. Collectively NHS charities hold around £2 billion of assets and receive a combined annual income of around £330 million.

The Association of NHS Charities and a number of individual NHS charities have called for reform. They have said that the current legislative framework limits NHS charities’ freedom to grow and better support their beneficiaries. There are also concerns that Ministerial involvement in these charities may discourage donors, and could be seen to undermine the independence that is required by charity law.

The Government supports the Bill and the Department of Health have prepared Explanatory Notes for the Bill, with the consent of Wendy Morton, which provide further detail on each part of the Bill.

As well as providing a summary of the Bill, this briefing includes further information on the role and legal status of NHS charities, and on proposals to reform their regulation (see section 2). Section 3 of this briefing sets out further background on the relationship between Peter Pan and Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity. Section 4 provides an overview of the wider role of charities working with the NHS, although the Bill would not affect these independent charities.

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