RCGP demands 'section 75' competition rules are scrapped

Proposed DH competition rules must be withdrawn because they will force GP commissioners to open NHS services to competition and destabilise existing providers, the RCGP has warned.

Professor Clare Gerada: competition regulations must be withdrawn
Professor Clare Gerada: competition regulations must be withdrawn

In a letter to health minister Lord Howe, RCGP chairwoman Professor Clare Gerada demanded a meeting with the government to discuss NHS regulations laid down in parliament, which will take effect under the Health and Social Care Act on 1 April.

Section 75 of the regulations, laid down on 13 February, states that commissioners may only award a contract without competition if they are 'satisfied that the services to which the contract relates are capable of being provided only by that provider'.

Dr Gerada wrote: ‘It is clear to us that, as they currently stand, the regulations will be interpreted by CCGs as requiring services to be put out to competition. This will have significant implications for local determination, stability of services and transaction costs (given that tendering is a very expensive undertaking).

‘As such, significant changes are required to the face of the regulations. I would accordingly urge you to withdraw the regulations in order to allow this to happen. I would also welcome the opportunity to meet with you to explore the concerns articulated in this letter and to discuss the government’s intended response.’

However, Lord Howe has written to members of the House of Lords arguing that fears about the impact of the regulations are misguided. 'A perception has gained currency arguing that the regulations would in practice force commissioners to open all services up to competition though tendering and contradict assurances I gave to parliament during the passage of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Let me state categorically that this is neither intention nor the practical effect of the regulations.'

Dr Gerada was among more than 1,000 NHS workers who signed a letter printed in the Daily Telegraph on Friday, along with BMA deputy chairman Dr Dr Kailash Chand. The letter written by Lancashire GP and GPC member Dr David Wrigley demanded a parliamentary vote on the new regulations. It claims the new regulations 'force virtually every part of the English NHS to be opened up to the private sector to bid for its contracts'.

'We urge parliamentarians to force a debate and vote on this issue to prevent another nail in  the coffin of a publically provided NHS free from the motive of corporate profit,' it reads.

The RCGP also sent a series of case studies to the DH setting out scenarios in which it fears CCGs may be forced to open services to competition against their will.

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