In a guidance document published on Tuesday the DoH said by it will undertake a phased implementation of the any qualified provider (AQP) policy, treating 2012/13 as a transitional year and starting with a ‘limited set’ of community and mental health services.
It set out a list of potential services that PCTs could prioritise for AQP implementation in its first year, including musculo-skeletal services for back pain, adult hearing services in the community, wheelchair services for children and primary care psychological therapies for adults.
But it said PCTs may choose other services which are ‘higher local priorities’ if there is a clear case to do so.
It added that the choices made by PCTs must be based on the priorities of pathfinder clinical commissioning groups, and have engaged with local patients and professionals.
The DoH said it is developing a further list of services for AQP implementation in 2013/14. These include maternity services, such as antenatal education and breastfeeding support and speech and language therapies.
In an accompanying letter, DoH commissioning czar Dame Barbara Hakin said the NHS must push ahead with the agenda to offer patients more choice despite the financial challenges and the period of ‘significant transition’.
She said: ‘This is not a reason to delay action to address patient demands for greater choice and control, especially where there are clear improvements in outcomes to be gained.’