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NHS trusts win legal fight over Virgin Care child health contract

A decision by Lancashire county council to award a £104m contract for children’s healthcare services to Virgin Care has been thrown out after a legal challenge by NHS trusts.

A high court judge found the local authority’s process was flawed and the contract for services for children aged 0-19 should not have been awarded to the private provider late last year.

The case hinged on the scoring system used by the council when it reviewed rival bids for the deal, which the trusts claimed had been applied incorrectly.

The contract for delivering the Lancashire’s healthy child programme, which includes providing health visitors and school nurses, was advertised in September.

After the tender process, the local authority announced its preferred bidder was Virgin Care, part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.

It was chosen over the existing providers – Lancashire Care NHS foundation trust and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS foundation trust.

On Friday, the judge, Justice Stuart-Smith, upheld the trusts’ legal challenge, saying the council’s decision to score Virgin’s bid more highly than theirs was not adequately supported in its notes of the scoring procedure.

After reviewing them, he said he had “come to the conclusion that the reasons given were not sufficient in law in the circumstances of this case”.

A spokesperson for both trusts said: “As public bodies, the trusts are always reluctant to resort to legal action, in particular against other public bodies. However, we felt that we had submitted a strong bid and wanted to gain clarity on why we had not been successful.

“We believe the connectivity with other wider NHS services is important in terms of being able to fully meet the needs of the children and families who access these types of services in a joined-up way.

“We are proud of the services within this contract and our teams that deliver them.”

Virgin Care had been due to begin the five-year contract in April. However, after the legal proceedings began, the trusts were granted an extension until April 2019.

The council said this would stay in place while it considered its options.

Shaun Turner, the local authority’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “Putting services out to the market is not a political decision, it is simply part of what the county council is required to do in order to meet its legal obligations.

“Although we’re disappointed in the outcome of this judgment, we are reassured that with the exception of the moderation element, the county council’s procurement processes was appropriate and that individual panel members were not found to be at fault.”

Turner said the council would not be rerunning the procurement process or inviting new bids, as only the final part of the process had been judged as being flawed.

“Our existing contract with LCFT and Blackpool NHS Teaching Hospitals trust runs until March 2019, so there will be no disruption to these services,” he said.

“We recognise this is a stressful time for our health visitors and school nurses. We value the vital role they play and will continue to support them in delivering the best outcomes for our children and families.”

Virgin Care has been a growing provider of healthcare contracts awarded by NHS bodies and county councils, and offers similar child health services in other parts of the country.

The company was awarded £1.6m by NHS commissioning groups this week after legal action over a children’s services contract it missed out on in Surrey.

NHS trusts win legal fight over Virgin Care child health contract

A decision by Lancashire county council to award a £104m contract for children’s healthcare services to Virgin Care has been thrown out after a legal challenge by NHS trusts.

A high court judge found the local authority’s process was flawed and the contract for services for children aged 0-19 should not have been awarded to the private provider late last year.

The case hinged on the scoring system used by the council when it reviewed rival bids for the deal, which the trusts claimed had been applied incorrectly.

The contract for delivering the Lancashire’s healthy child programme, which includes providing health visitors and school nurses, was advertised in September.

After the tender process, the local authority announced its preferred bidder was Virgin Care, part of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.

It was chosen over the existing providers – Lancashire Care NHS foundation trust and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS foundation trust.

On Friday, the judge, Justice Stuart-Smith, upheld the trusts’ legal challenge, saying the council’s decision to score Virgin’s bid more highly than theirs was not adequately supported in its notes of the scoring procedure.

After reviewing them, he said he had “come to the conclusion that the reasons given were not sufficient in law in the circumstances of this case”.

A spokesperson for both trusts said: “As public bodies, the trusts are always reluctant to resort to legal action, in particular against other public bodies. However, we felt that we had submitted a strong bid and wanted to gain clarity on why we had not been successful.

“We believe the connectivity with other wider NHS services is important in terms of being able to fully meet the needs of the children and families who access these types of services in a joined-up way.

“We are proud of the services within this contract and our teams that deliver them.”

Virgin Care had been due to begin the five-year contract in April. However, after the legal proceedings began, the trusts were granted an extension until April 2019.

The council said this would stay in place while it considered its options.

Shaun Turner, the local authority’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “Putting services out to the market is not a political decision, it is simply part of what the county council is required to do in order to meet its legal obligations.

“Although we’re disappointed in the outcome of this judgment, we are reassured that with the exception of the moderation element, the county council’s procurement processes was appropriate and that individual panel members were not found to be at fault.”

Turner said the council would not be rerunning the procurement process or inviting new bids, as only the final part of the process had been judged as being flawed.

“Our existing contract with LCFT and Blackpool NHS Teaching Hospitals trust runs until March 2019, so there will be no disruption to these services,” he said.

“We recognise this is a stressful time for our health visitors and school nurses. We value the vital role they play and will continue to support them in delivering the best outcomes for our children and families.”

Virgin Care has been a growing provider of healthcare contracts awarded by NHS bodies and county councils, and offers similar child health services in other parts of the country.

The company was awarded £1.6m by NHS commissioning groups this week after legal action over a children’s services contract it missed out on in Surrey.

Theresa May under fire over NHS ‘Brexit dividend’ claim

Theresa May is under pressure to justify how a so-called Brexit dividend could help pay for a planned £20bn annual funding rise for the NHS, as her announcement on extra health spending was met with scepticism.

The prime minister told the BBC the government’s 10-year spending plan for the health service in England – which she will formally unveil on Monday – would involve “significantly more money going into the NHS”.

She told Andrew Marr on Sunday: “What we’re doing is saying very clearly as a government that the NHS is our priority. And it’s right, because the NHS matters to people.

“We have looked carefully at what we have put into the NHS to ensure that we deliver world-class healthcare.”

But May’s assertion that the rise could be partly paid for with money saved by ceasing EU contributions after Brexit was dismissed by Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative backbencher who chairs the Commons health and social care committee.

“The Brexit dividend tosh was expected but treats the public as fools,” she tweeted. “Sad to see government slide to populist arguments rather than evidence on such an important issue. This will make it harder to have a rational debate about the ‘who & how’ of funding and sharing this fairly.”

Her view was echoed by Philip Lee, who recently resigned as justice minister and who sometimes works as a freelance GP. Lee tweeted that while the extra money was to be welcomed, “we must be honest about how we are going to pay”.

He added: “There is no evidence yet that there will be a ‘Brexit dividend’ – so it’s tax rises, more borrowing or both.

Q&A

What are the financial pressures on the NHS that have built up over the last decade?

Between 2010-11 and 2016-17, health spending increased by an average of 1.2% above inflation and increases are due to continue in real terms at a similar rate until the end of this parliament. This is far below the annual inflation-proof growth rate that the NHS enjoyed before 2010 of almost 4% stretching back to the 1950s. As budgets tighten, NHS organisations have been struggling to live within their means. In the financial year 2015-16, acute trusts recorded a deficit of £2.6bn. This was reduced to £800m last year, though only after a £1.8bn bung from the Department of Health, which shows the deficit remained the same year on year.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

The junior Brexit minister Suella Braverman was unable to say how much a Brexit dividend might amount to if it did exist. “There are lots of estimates,” she told Sky’s Sophie Ridge on Sunday when questioned about it.

Speaking to Marr, May was vague on how the funding increase would be paid for, saying only that it would be financed from the country “contributing a bit more” and a boost to public finances from Brexit – something the government’s official forecasts say will not happen.

But the PM insisted there would be extra money after Brexit. “At the moment, as a member of the European Union, every year we spend significant amounts of money on our subscription, if you like, to the EU.

“When we leave we won’t be doing that. It’s right that we use that money to spend on our priorities, and the NHS is our number one priority.”

The argument contradicts official forecasts, which say that leaving the EU will weaken the public finances, at least in the short term. EU contributions until 2022 have already been earmarked, either to keep paying into Brussels budgets or to replace this spending elsewhere.

May also faced pressure about the amount of the increase, which she said would be a 3.4% real-terms average rise over the first period, up to 2023-24. This is less than the 5% that the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says is needed for real progress.

In another tweet, Wollaston said the planned 3.4% real-terms increase over the period was welcome but “will not deliver as planned” without increases in preventive health measures, social care, training and capital budgets.

May saidsome improvements would come from efficiencies, and she claimed too much of the NHS budget increases under Labour governments were spent on non-clinical care. “We need to make sure that the money we put in is being spent on delivering for patients,” she said.

To pay for the rise, May said the UK would be “contributing more as a country”, but gave no details as to whether this would be higher taxes or more borrowing. “The chancellor will announce the details in due course, and before the spending review but there are many aspects that will change over the next few months, potentially,” she said.

The shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, expressed scepticism about the plan, saying people would not be fooled.

Thornberry told Marr: “I’d certainly welcome it if we could believe it [but] how are they going to pay for it? They say that they’re going to increase taxes, but we’ve yet to hear who is going to get their taxes increased and how. They say they’re going to increase borrowing but they haven’t said by how much, and they haven’t told us what the effect will be.

“They’ve told us they’re going to pay for it from a Brexit dividend. We don’t really know what that means because we don’t know what the deal is going to be and what the overall effect on the economy is going to be, and actually whether Brexit is going to end up costing us a great deal of money.”

Thornberry also noted that the new plan did not include extra spending on social care. “You can’t talk about just the NHS. You can’t have the NHS without social care. Anyone who has an elderly relative or is elderly themselves knows that.”

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils, said it was disappointing there was not a parallel boost to social care.

Izzi Seccombe, who heads the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “Properly funding social care would help prevent crises in the NHS by reducing the numbers of people who are admitted to hospital in the first place.”

The Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb said the funding was “an inadequate sticking plaster” that “falls well short of what the IFS and others say is necessary. It will condemn the NHS and patients to a very uncertain and dangerous future.”

Theresa May under fire over NHS ‘Brexit dividend’ claim

Theresa May has come under pressure to justify how a so-called Brexit dividend could help pay for a planned £20bn annual funding rise for the NHS, as her announcement on extra health spending was met with scepticism.

The prime minister told the BBC the government’s 10-year spending plan for the health service in England – which she will formally unveil on Monday – would involve “significantly more money going into the NHS”.

She told Andrew Marr on Sunday morning: “What we’re doing is saying very clearly as a government that the NHS is our priority. And it’s right, because the NHS matters to people.

“We have looked carefully at what we have put into the NHS to ensure that we deliver world-class healthcare.”

But May’s argument this could be partly paid for by the end of contributions to the EU after Brexit was dismissed by Sarah Wollaston, the influential Conservative backbencher who chairs the Commons health and social care committee.

“The Brexit dividend tosh was expected but treats the public as fools,” she tweeted. “Sad to see government slide to populist arguments rather than evidence on such an important issue. This will make it harder to have a rational debate about the ‘who & how’ of funding and sharing this fairly.”

In another tweet, Wollaston said the planned 3.4% real-terms increase over the period was welcome but “will not deliver as planned” without increases in preventative health measures, social care, training and capital budgets.

Q&A

What are the financial pressures on the NHS that have built up over the last decade?

Between 2010-11 and 2016-17, health spending increased by an average of 1.2% above inflation and increases are due to continue in real terms at a similar rate until the end of this parliament. This is far below the annual inflation-proof growth rate that the NHS enjoyed before 2010 of almost 4% stretching back to the 1950s. As budgets tighten, NHS organisations have been struggling to live within their means. In the financial year 2015-16, acute trusts recorded a deficit of £2.6bn. This was reduced to £800m last year, though only after a £1.8bn bung from the Department of Health, which shows the deficit remained the same year on year.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

Speaking to Marr, May was vague on how the funding increase would be paid for, saying only it would be financed from the country “contributing a bit more” and a boost to public finances from Brexit – something the government’s official forecasts say will not happen.

But the PM insisted there would be extra money after Brexit. “At the moment, as a member of the European Union, every year we spend significant amounts of money on our subscription, if you like, to the EU.

“When we leave we won’t be doing that. It’s right that we use that money to spend on our priorities and the NHS is our number one priority.”

The argument contradicts official forecasts, which predict that leaving the EU will weaken the public finances, at least in the short term. EU contributions until 2022 have already been earmarked, either to keep paying into Brussels budgets or to replace this spending elsewhere.

She also faced pressure about the amount of the increase, which May said would be 3.4% real-terms average rise over the first period, up to 2023-24. This is lower than the historic 3.7% rise, and less than the 5% that the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says is needed for real progress.

May said some improvements would come from efficiencies, and claimed too much of the NHS budget increases under Labour governments were spent on non-clinical care. “We need to make sure that the money we put in is being spent on delivering for patients,” she said.

To pay for the rise, May said the UK would be “contributing more as a country”, but gave no details as to whether this would be higher taxes or more borrowing.

“The chancellor will announce the details in due course, and before the spending review but there are many aspects that will change over the next few months, potentially,” she said.

The shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, expressed scepticism about the plan, saying people would not be fooled.

Thornberry told Marr: “I’d certainly welcome it if we could believe it,” she said. “How are they going to pay for it? They say that they’re going to increase taxes, but we’ve yet to hear who is going to get their taxes increased and how. They say they’re going to increase borrowing but they haven’t said by how much, and they haven’t told us what the effect will be.

“They’ve told us they’re going to pay for it from a Brexit dividend. We don’t really know what that means because we don’t know what the deal is going to be and what the overall effect on the economy is going to be, and actually whether Brexit is going to end up costing us a great deal of money.”

Thornberry also noted that the new plan did not include extra spending on social care. “You can’t talk about just the NHS. You can’t have the NHS without social care. Anyone who has an elderly relative or is elderly themselves knows that.”

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils, said it was disappointing there was not a parallel boost to social care.

Izzi Seccombe, who heads the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “Properly funding social care would help prevent crises in the NHS by reducing the numbers of people who are admitted to hospital in the first place.”

The Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb said the funding was “an inadequate sticking plaster” that “falls well shot of what the IFS and others say is necessary. It will condemn the NHS and patients to a very uncertain and dangerous future.”

It is understood a freeze on tax thresholds is being considered by the government as one option to pay for up to half of the annual funding increase. This would, however, mean another big policy U-turn by the Tories, who are committed to raising the tax-free threshold to £12,500 and increasing the level at which people pay high-rate tax to £50,000 by April 2020.

May’s announcement follows months of intense debate at the top of government about how to prepare the NHS for the challenges of an ageing population and the rising costs of care and drugs, which have taken NHS finances to breaking point.

NHS England will be asked to come up with a 10-year plan laying out how it will use the extra money to provide more doctors and nurses and improve all key services.

Abortion campaigners target Sajid Javid over Northern Ireland

Sajid Javid will come under pressure from a crossbench group of MPs to bring forward a bill that would allow reformers to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland.

More than 30 MPs have pledged to send the home secretary written questions on Monday demanding the domestic abuse bill be brought before parliament by the autumn. This would allow pro-choice MPs to put down an amendment that would give women in Northern Ireland the right to access terminations.

Calls for a shakeup of Northern Ireland’s strict anti-abortion laws have been growing since voters in the Republic of Ireland ditched a constitutional curb on the procedures in a landmark referendum last month.

Theresa May faces a headache over the issue because the government depends on the support of 10 Democratic Unionist party MPs, who strongly oppose any change to Northern Ireland’s strict abortion laws.

Q&A

What is the law on abortion in Northern Ireland?

Following the Irish referendum, Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK and Ireland – and most of Europe – where terminations are outlawed apart from in the most exceptional circumstances.

The UK Abortion Act of 1967 was never extended to Northern Ireland, and abortion remains illegal unless the life or mental health of the mother is at risk. Northern Ireland has the harshest criminal penalty for abortion anywhere in Europe; in theory, life imprisonment can be handed down to a woman undergoing an unlawful abortion.

Fatal foetal abnormalities and conceptions by rape or incest are not lawful grounds for a termination.

Most politicians in Northern Ireland – Catholic and Protestant – do not favour reform, despite the UN saying the UK was violating the rights of women in Northern Ireland by restricting their access to abortion.

In 2016 more than 700 women from Northern Ireland crossed the Irish Sea to clinics in Britain to terminate pregnancies.

MPs are targeting Javid, who is yet to comment on the issue, as they seek to allow parliament to hold a free vote on whether to repeal sections 58 and 59 of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.

Supreme court judges last week recommended repealing the legislation to address the breach in the human rights of Northern Irish women caused by the failure to provide access to abortion services.

The MPs putting questions to Javid include the Conservative health select committee chairwoman, Sarah Wollaston, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, Jo Swinson, the Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas and the Conservative former minister Ed Vaizey.

The Labour MP Stella Creasy plans to table an amendment to the bill aimed at equalising access across the UK and reducing the need for women from Northern Ireland to travel to England to access help.

“It is clear there’s a majority across parliament who want to see this legislation which criminalises women who seek an abortion repealed, yet without this legislation being brought forward to parliament, an amendment can’t be tabled,” she said.

“The government won’t give a date, so now MPs across parties are tabling questions demanding the home secretary set out the bill timetable. Without this, we face the prospect of a rape victim having to give evidence about the damage this legislation does to women’s rights before the government is forced to act,” she said.

Campaign organisations including Bpas, the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign, Nupas, FPA, Amnesty International, Together for Yes and Alliance for Choice are working together to call for the decriminalisation of abortion across the UK.

Last week, supreme court judges said Northern Ireland’s abortion law is incompatible with human rights legislation, but rejected a challenge brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on technical grounds.

The prime minister continued to resist calls to intervene in Northern Ireland’s affairs and insisted change was a matter for the devolved government there, which has not met for more than a year.

The domestic abuse bill, which is out for public consultation, is a flagship piece of legislation for the prime minister.

A government spokesperson said: “We want to see devolved government in Northern Ireland restored, so that locally elected, democratically accountable politicians can debate fundamental changes to policy on abortion, and the people of Northern Ireland have a direct say in the process.”

Abortion campaigners target Sajid Javid over Northern Ireland

Sajid Javid will come under pressure from a crossbench group of MPs to bring forward a bill that would allow reformers to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland.

More than 30 MPs have pledged to send the home secretary written questions on Monday demanding the domestic abuse bill be brought before parliament by the autumn. This would allow pro-choice MPs to put down an amendment that would give women in Northern Ireland the right to access terminations.

Calls for a shakeup of Northern Ireland’s strict anti-abortion laws have been growing since voters in the Republic of Ireland ditched a constitutional curb on the procedures in a landmark referendum last month.

Theresa May faces a headache over the issue because the government depends on the support of 10 Democratic Unionist party MPs, who strongly oppose any change to Northern Ireland’s strict abortion laws.

Q&A

What is the law on abortion in Northern Ireland?

Following the Irish referendum, Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK and Ireland – and most of Europe – where terminations are outlawed apart from in the most exceptional circumstances.

The UK Abortion Act of 1967 was never extended to Northern Ireland, and abortion remains illegal unless the life or mental health of the mother is at risk. Northern Ireland has the harshest criminal penalty for abortion anywhere in Europe; in theory, life imprisonment can be handed down to a woman undergoing an unlawful abortion.

Fatal foetal abnormalities and conceptions by rape or incest are not lawful grounds for a termination.

Most politicians in Northern Ireland – Catholic and Protestant – do not favour reform, despite the UN saying the UK was violating the rights of women in Northern Ireland by restricting their access to abortion.

In 2016 more than 700 women from Northern Ireland crossed the Irish Sea to clinics in Britain to terminate pregnancies.

MPs are targeting Javid, who is yet to comment on the issue, as they seek to allow parliament to hold a free vote on whether to repeal sections 58 and 59 of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.

Supreme court judges last week recommended repealing the legislation to address the breach in the human rights of Northern Irish women caused by the failure to provide access to abortion services.

The MPs putting questions to Javid include the Conservative health select committee chairwoman, Sarah Wollaston, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, Jo Swinson, the Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas and the Conservative former minister Ed Vaizey.

The Labour MP Stella Creasy plans to table an amendment to the bill aimed at equalising access across the UK and reducing the need for women from Northern Ireland to travel to England to access help.

“It is clear there’s a majority across parliament who want to see this legislation which criminalises women who seek an abortion repealed, yet without this legislation being brought forward to parliament, an amendment can’t be tabled,” she said.

“The government won’t give a date, so now MPs across parties are tabling questions demanding the home secretary set out the bill timetable. Without this, we face the prospect of a rape victim having to give evidence about the damage this legislation does to women’s rights before the government is forced to act,” she said.

Campaign organisations including Bpas, the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign, Nupas, FPA, Amnesty International, Together for Yes and Alliance for Choice are working together to call for the decriminalisation of abortion across the UK.

Last week, supreme court judges said Northern Ireland’s abortion law is incompatible with human rights legislation, but rejected a challenge brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on technical grounds.

The prime minister continued to resist calls to intervene in Northern Ireland’s affairs and insisted change was a matter for the devolved government there, which has not met for more than a year.

The domestic abuse bill, which is out for public consultation, is a flagship piece of legislation for the prime minister.

A government spokesperson said: “We want to see devolved government in Northern Ireland restored, so that locally elected, democratically accountable politicians can debate fundamental changes to policy on abortion, and the people of Northern Ireland have a direct say in the process.”

Abortion campaigners target Sajid Javid over Northern Ireland

Sajid Javid will come under pressure from a crossbench group of MPs to bring forward a bill that would allow reformers to decriminalise abortion in Northern Ireland.

More than 30 MPs have pledged to send the home secretary written questions on Monday demanding the domestic abuse bill be brought before parliament by the autumn. This would allow pro-choice MPs to put down an amendment that would give women in Northern Ireland the right to access terminations.

Calls for a shakeup of Northern Ireland’s strict anti-abortion laws have been growing since voters in the Republic of Ireland ditched a constitutional curb on the procedures in a landmark referendum last month.

Theresa May faces a headache over the issue because the government depends on the support of 10 Democratic Unionist party MPs, who strongly oppose any change to Northern Ireland’s strict abortion laws.

Q&A

What is the law on abortion in Northern Ireland?

Following the Irish referendum, Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK and Ireland – and most of Europe – where terminations are outlawed apart from in the most exceptional circumstances.

The UK Abortion Act of 1967 was never extended to Northern Ireland, and abortion remains illegal unless the life or mental health of the mother is at risk. Northern Ireland has the harshest criminal penalty for abortion anywhere in Europe; in theory, life imprisonment can be handed down to a woman undergoing an unlawful abortion.

Fatal foetal abnormalities and conceptions by rape or incest are not lawful grounds for a termination.

Most politicians in Northern Ireland – Catholic and Protestant – do not favour reform, despite the UN saying the UK was violating the rights of women in Northern Ireland by restricting their access to abortion.

In 2016 more than 700 women from Northern Ireland crossed the Irish Sea to clinics in Britain to terminate pregnancies.

MPs are targeting Javid, who is yet to comment on the issue, as they seek to allow parliament to hold a free vote on whether to repeal sections 58 and 59 of the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act.

Supreme court judges last week recommended repealing the legislation to address the breach in the human rights of Northern Irish women caused by the failure to provide access to abortion services.

The MPs putting questions to Javid include the Conservative health select committee chairwoman, Sarah Wollaston, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, Jo Swinson, the Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas and the Conservative former minister Ed Vaizey.

The Labour MP Stella Creasy plans to table an amendment to the bill aimed at equalising access across the UK and reducing the need for women from Northern Ireland to travel to England to access help.

“It is clear there’s a majority across parliament who want to see this legislation which criminalises women who seek an abortion repealed, yet without this legislation being brought forward to parliament, an amendment can’t be tabled,” she said.

“The government won’t give a date, so now MPs across parties are tabling questions demanding the home secretary set out the bill timetable. Without this, we face the prospect of a rape victim having to give evidence about the damage this legislation does to women’s rights before the government is forced to act,” she said.

Campaign organisations including Bpas, the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign, Nupas, FPA, Amnesty International, Together for Yes and Alliance for Choice are working together to call for the decriminalisation of abortion across the UK.

Last week, supreme court judges said Northern Ireland’s abortion law is incompatible with human rights legislation, but rejected a challenge brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on technical grounds.

The prime minister continued to resist calls to intervene in Northern Ireland’s affairs and insisted change was a matter for the devolved government there, which has not met for more than a year.

The domestic abuse bill, which is out for public consultation, is a flagship piece of legislation for the prime minister.

A government spokesperson said: “We want to see devolved government in Northern Ireland restored, so that locally elected, democratically accountable politicians can debate fundamental changes to policy on abortion, and the people of Northern Ireland have a direct say in the process.”

A million NHS workers agree to pay rise worth 6.5% over three years

More than 1 million NHS workers in England are to receive a pay rise worth at least 6.5% over the next three years after the deal was accepted by 13 unions representing staff.

The rise comes after seven years of a 1% pay cap on salaries, which caused resentment among NHS workers.

Among those who will benefit are nurses, midwives, hospital porters, 999 call handlers, security guards, cleaners, radiographers and healthcare assistants.

Unions had claimed staff incomes had eroded by up to 15% since austerity began in 2010.

The deal means those at the top of bands will receive 6.5% over the three-year period with more for those below, through a combination of cost-of-living pay rises and faster incremental increases.

Lower-paid staff will also get an immediate £2,000 increase, taking them above the living wage.

Every NHS worker in England will be paid at least £8.93 an hour (18p above the real living wage of £8.75 an hour), or £17,460 a year if they work full-time.

Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, which led the negotiations, said the end of the pay cap would be a huge relief to employers who have struggled to retain and recruit staff as a result of the government’s “mean-spirited” policies.

“The agreement won’t solve all the NHS’s problems overnight, but it will go a long way towards easing the financial strain suffered by health staff and their families over many years,” she said.

“This three-year pay deal must not be a one-off. Health workers will want to know that ministers are committed to decent wage rises across the NHS for the long term, and that this isn’t just a quick fix.”

The Treasury agreed to find £4.2bn of new money to ensure the pay increases would not come at the cost of jobs or patient care.

Only the GMB’s NHS members voted against the deal, by almost nine to one.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said its members should begin receiving the largest pay rise in a decade in their July pay packets.

Janet Davies, the RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “Ministers knew the public were behind our members when they turned up the heat last year. Today’s deal would not have been reached without the campaigning efforts of tens of thousands of nursing staff last year and we thank the public for the support shown.

“We will turn our campaigning fire on getting this pay rise extended to nursing staff in other parts of the NHS and social care too. The care sector already suffers from high staff turnover and so pay must be boosted there too if we are to prevent a nursing exodus for better paid jobs in hospitals and the community.”

Negotiations are ongoing in Scotland and Wales but the absence of a government in Northern Ireland means the increase will be delayed there.

The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the “incredibly well-deserved pay rise” would amount to up to 29%, with some of the biggest increases for the lowest paid.

“I hope this will also go some way to helping us recruit and retain more brilliant staff in our NHS,” he said.

A million NHS workers agree to pay rise worth 6.5% over three years

More than 1 million NHS workers in England are to receive a pay rise worth at least 6.5% over the next three years after the deal was accepted by 13 unions representing staff.

The rise comes after seven years of a 1% pay cap on salaries, which caused resentment among NHS workers.

Among those who will benefit are nurses, midwives, hospital porters, 999 call handlers, security guards, cleaners, radiographers and healthcare assistants.

Unions had claimed staff incomes had eroded by up to 15% since austerity began in 2010.

The deal means those at the top of bands will receive 6.5% over the three-year period with more for those below, through a combination of cost-of-living pay rises and faster incremental increases.

Lower-paid staff will also get an immediate £2,000 increase, taking them above the living wage.

Every NHS worker in England will be paid at least £8.93 an hour (18p above the real living wage of £8.75 an hour), or £17,460 a year if they work full-time.

Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, which led the negotiations, said the end of the pay cap would be a huge relief to employers who have struggled to retain and recruit staff as a result of the government’s “mean-spirited” policies.

“The agreement won’t solve all the NHS’s problems overnight, but it will go a long way towards easing the financial strain suffered by health staff and their families over many years,” she said.

“This three-year pay deal must not be a one-off. Health workers will want to know that ministers are committed to decent wage rises across the NHS for the long term, and that this isn’t just a quick fix.”

The Treasury agreed to find £4.2bn of new money to ensure the pay increases would not come at the cost of jobs or patient care.

Only the GMB’s NHS members voted against the deal, by almost nine to one.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said its members should begin receiving the largest pay rise in a decade in their July pay packets.

Janet Davies, the RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “Ministers knew the public were behind our members when they turned up the heat last year. Today’s deal would not have been reached without the campaigning efforts of tens of thousands of nursing staff last year and we thank the public for the support shown.

“We will turn our campaigning fire on getting this pay rise extended to nursing staff in other parts of the NHS and social care too. The care sector already suffers from high staff turnover and so pay must be boosted there too if we are to prevent a nursing exodus for better paid jobs in hospitals and the community.”

Negotiations are ongoing in Scotland and Wales but the absence of a government in Northern Ireland means the increase will be delayed there.

The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the “incredibly well-deserved pay rise” would amount to up to 29%, with some of the biggest increases for the lowest paid.

“I hope this will also go some way to helping us recruit and retain more brilliant staff in our NHS,” he said.

A million NHS workers agree to pay rise worth 6.5% over three years

More than 1 million NHS workers in England are to receive a pay rise worth at least 6.5% over the next three years after the deal was accepted by 13 unions representing staff.

The rise comes after seven years of a 1% pay cap on salaries, which caused resentment among NHS workers.

Among those who will benefit are nurses, midwives, hospital porters, 999 call handlers, security guards, cleaners, radiographers and healthcare assistants.

Unions had claimed staff incomes had eroded by up to 15% since austerity began in 2010.

The deal means those at the top of bands will receive 6.5% over the three-year period with more for those below, through a combination of cost-of-living pay rises and faster incremental increases.

Lower-paid staff will also get an immediate £2,000 increase, taking them above the living wage.

Every NHS worker in England will be paid at least £8.93 an hour (18p above the real living wage of £8.75 an hour), or £17,460 a year if they work full-time.

Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, which led the negotiations, said the end of the pay cap would be a huge relief to employers who have struggled to retain and recruit staff as a result of the government’s “mean-spirited” policies.

“The agreement won’t solve all the NHS’s problems overnight, but it will go a long way towards easing the financial strain suffered by health staff and their families over many years,” she said.

“This three-year pay deal must not be a one-off. Health workers will want to know that ministers are committed to decent wage rises across the NHS for the long term, and that this isn’t just a quick fix.”

The Treasury agreed to find £4.2bn of new money to ensure the pay increases would not come at the cost of jobs or patient care.

Only the GMB’s NHS members voted against the deal, by almost nine to one.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said its members should begin receiving the largest pay rise in a decade in their July pay packets.

Janet Davies, the RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “Ministers knew the public were behind our members when they turned up the heat last year. Today’s deal would not have been reached without the campaigning efforts of tens of thousands of nursing staff last year and we thank the public for the support shown.

“We will turn our campaigning fire on getting this pay rise extended to nursing staff in other parts of the NHS and social care too. The care sector already suffers from high staff turnover and so pay must be boosted there too if we are to prevent a nursing exodus for better paid jobs in hospitals and the community.”

Negotiations are ongoing in Scotland and Wales but the absence of a government in Northern Ireland means the increase will be delayed there.

The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the “incredibly well-deserved pay rise” would amount to up to 29%, with some of the biggest increases for the lowest paid.

“I hope this will also go some way to helping us recruit and retain more brilliant staff in our NHS,” he said.