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Role of the Committee

The Health and Social Care Committee is made up of MPs from the main political parties.

We scrutinise government and in particular the work of the Department of Health and Social Care. We also scrutinise the work of public bodies in the health system in England, such as NHS England and Improvement, Public Health England and the Care Quality Commission, and professional regulators such as the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

We do so by holding inquiries on specific topics and accountability hearings with the Secretary of State, and Chief Executives of relevant public bodies.

We ask questions and gather evidence, listen to witnesses, draw conclusions, make recommendations, and hold health and social care leaders to account for their actions.

A brief overview: How do inquiries work?

The Committee holds inquiries into topics it wishes to investigate. Inquiry topics are chosen by the Committee and are based on a range of factors, including the work of Government and of other external organisations, and in response to key issues of the day.

When the Committee has chosen an inquiry it normally issues a press notice outlining the main themes of the inquiry. These are the inquiry’s “terms of reference”. The notice is published on the Committee’s website. In some cases, the Committee issues a public call for written evidence, inviting written submissions that address the terms of reference. Written submissions are welcomed from whoever has a relevant point to make. For more information on submitting written evidence please read the guidance.

Committees do not always issue a public call for written evidence. Sometimes the Committee may identify possible witnesses and invite them to submit evidence directly.

Once the written evidence has been assessed, the Committee will decide which witnesses to invite to provide oral evidence. This is when individuals answer the Committee’s questions and provide their opinion, usually during public sessions.

The duration of inquiries can vary. For example, sometimes an inquiry can last for several months with many oral evidence sessions, or an inquiry may involve a single oral evidence session.

Inquiries may conclude with the publication of a report containing the Committee’s findings and its conclusions, as well as recommendations to the Government and/or other public bodies. The Committee will then expect to receive a response from the Government to the recommendations, in principle within two months.

Alternatively, the Committee may wish to pursue the topics covered through the inquiry by writing to individuals, the Government or other organisations. 

The Committee also holds pre-appointment hearings. This is an opportunity for the Committee to assess the suitability of the Government’s preferred candidate for certain posts, including the Chairs of NHS England and NHS Improvement, the National Data Guardian, and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.