Doreen Massey on new proposals to change how NHS bodies raise and spend charitable resources
On Friday, I will introduce the Second Reading of the NHS Charitable Trusts Bill in the Lords. The Bill seeks to make provision to remove the Health Secretary’s powers – and duty – to appoint trustees for NHS bodies in England, except in relation to property holdings. But it also makes provision to amend the Copyright and Patents Act 1988 to transfer the right to a royalty of performances and publications ofPeter Pan to the new Great Ormond Street Hospital Children (GOSH) charity. At present, this right sits with special trustees appointed by the Secretary of State. Just like Tinkerbell therefore, the Bill is small but also mighty.
JM Barrie’s historic bequest to GOSH has long provided a great deal of income to the charity, which has supported vital work and secured a high reputation for treating sick children. In 1988, former Prime Minister Lord Callaghan successfully proposed an amendment to the Copyright, Design and Patents Act which would give the charity rights to the royalties in perpetuity.
Problems remained however, concerning the structure of trustee responsibilities. Baroness Blackstone raised this issue during debates on what was to become the Deregulation Act 2015. Ministers agreed to introduce legislation and this Bill is the result. It will ensure GOSH can become an independent charity, although not until the Copyright, Design and Patents Act is amended.
Failure to pass the Bill would mean that GOSH would have to run two charities – an independent arm and another into which the Peter Pan royalties would be transferred. Something that in future could present a risk to legacies and charitable donations.
More generally, NHS charities are trusts under NHS regulation. Charitable funds can be held by NHS Trusts, Special Health Authorities, Foundation Trusts, Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS England. Such bodies are distinct from independent charities established solely under charity law and funds donated must be held separately from those provided by the taxpayer. Moreover, the conclusions of a Department of Health review of NHS charities will soon see them move, with safeguards, to independent status – to be regulated by the Charity Commission.
The Peter Pan film of the play ends with “to live will be an awfully big adventure”. This Bill will ensure that trusts such as GOSH are freed from undue bureaucracy to spend more of their charitable donations on patients and hopefully allow more children to live for that big adventure.
Baroness Doreen Massey of Darwen is a Labour Peer
Published 26th February 2016