BMA calls on Lords to throw out 'section 75' commissioning rules

BMA leaders have called for controversial 'section 75' NHS commissioning regulations to be withdrawn.

Dr Mark Porter: section 75 rules create 'great uncertainty'
Dr Mark Porter: section 75 rules create 'great uncertainty'

The BMA has sent a briefing paper to members of the House of Lords ahead of a debate on 24 April on a motion to kill off the regulations.

New regulations should be introduced which ‘unambiguously reflect previous government assurances that commissioners will not be forced to use competition when making their commissioning decisions’, the BMA paper warned.

BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter said the lack of guidance or satisfactory guarantees in the regulations had created ‘great uncertainty and anxiety for clinicians and patients’.

‘Only explicit wording in the regulations would allow patients, doctors and commissioners to be absolutely certain that clinicians will have the freedom to act in the way they consider to be in the best interests of patients,' he added.

Labour tabled a so-called ‘fatal motion’ in the Lords to throw out section 75 of the NHS (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) (No. 2) Regulations 2013. Opponents believe the regulations, issued under the Health and Social Care Act, could force commissioners to put all services out to tender and open the door to privatisation.

The DH has said the purpose of the regulations was simply to transfer existing procurement requirements from PCTs to CCGs and to allow the regulator, Monitor, to enforce the rules.

Officials rewrote an initial version of the regulations after a furious response from GPs, royal colleges and opposition politicians.

But the redrafted regulations still state that commissioners can only award contracts without competition if they can show no other provider could offer the service.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘GP commissioners now have responsibility for making critical decisions about how best to provide services to patients in their locality.

‘Commissioners could be put in the position of facing costly tendering processes and possible legal challenges from unsuccessful bidders because of ambiguous rules. That is why GPs want the regulations withdrawn.’

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