The NHS Competition and Co-operation Panel (CCP) has been asked to investigate whether PCTs are attempting to dissuade GPs from referring to certain hospitals.
Under the 'any willing provider' model, patients are entitled to a choice of any hospital as long as it provides services at NHS prices.
The DoH, the CCP and Monitor have received complaints that PCTs are urging GPs to refer to struggling local NHS hospitals rather than promoting choice. There are also reports of PCTs setting caps on the amount of activity they will purchase from certain providers.
The review is a signal that the DoH wants to end any reluctance within the NHS to use private providers before GPs take over commissioning in 2013.
Health minister Lord Howe said the review would help inform the ‘expanded operation’ of the 'any willing provider' model in the future.
‘Choice and competition are important in driving up quality and efficiency in services for patients and the taxpayer,' he said. 'This review will help ensure that our commitment to giving patients greater choice is realised.’
The CCP will report on its findings by June 2011.