Tuesday 24 October 2017

Queen's speech: outlining Government plans with legislation for EU vote

Andrew Woodcock

Queen Elizabeth said the government would pass a law paving the way for a referendum on the country's membership of the European Union, in a speech setting out Prime Minister David Cameron's legislative plan for the coming year.

"Early legislation will be introduced to provide for an in-out referendum on membership of the European Union before the end of 2017," the queen said, speaking in parliament.

"My government will renegotiate the United Kingdom's relationship with the European Union and pursue reform of the European Union for the benefit of all member states," she added.

Although there is no Health Bill in the Government's agenda for the coming year, the Queen's Speech included promises for far-reaching change to the NHS in England, involving the creation of a "truly seven-day NHS" and an £8bn boost in state funding by 2020.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the Conservative Government was committed to maintaining an NHS "there for everyone, whoever they are, regardless of their ability to pay".

Read more: Full transcript of the Queen's Speech

And he confirmed his intention to implement the five-year plan drawn up by NHS chief executive Simon Stevens, which envisages an additional £8 billion of state funding alongside £22 billion of efficiency savings to fill an anticipated £30 billion gap in NHS budgets by the end of this Parliament.

More confidentially, the Speech confirmed Mr Cameron's plans for more access to GPs at evenings and weekends and an increase in the availability of seven-day services in hospitals - something which some doctors have warned could leave the NHS overstretched.

The Government said it would support the NHS to deliver long-term plans to join up health and social care services and offer more tests and treatments closer to patients' homes

New access and waiting time standards for mental health services will include talking therapies and specialist care for people experiencing their first episode of psychosis.

In her Speech, the Queen told MPs and peers: "In England, my Government will secure the future of the National Health Service by implementing the National Health Service's own five-year plan, by increasing the health budget, integrating healthcare and social care and ensuring the National Health Service works on a seven-day basis.

"Measures will be introduced to improve access to general practitioners and to mental health care."

Additional reporting from Reuters

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