Competition fears remain despite rewritten regulations

CCGs could still be forced to open up all NHS services to competition despite the government redrafting controversial regulations published last month, GP leaders have warned.

Lord Howe: no plans to force NHS competition
Lord Howe: no plans to force NHS competition

Health minister Lord Howe has claimed that a new draft of the NHS (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) Regulations 2013, laid before parliament on 11 March, makes clear that not all NHS services will go out to tender.

The original draft laid before parliament prompted a furious response from the BMA and medical royal colleges, and led the DH to agree to rewrite the controversial 'section 75'.

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

RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada said: ‘I still cannot see a circumstance where you would only have one potential provider. If there is one legal challenge, CCGs will be scared.

‘It is our view that commissioners should be able to use their best professional practice in order to secure what is best for their communities.’

BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter called for a full parliamentary debate to provide ‘absolute clarity’ that CCGs will have the freedom to decide how best to secure high quality services for local populations.

'We remain concerned about the overall direction of travel for the NHS,' he said. 'It is vital that competition is not allowed to undermine integration, innovation, or clinical autonomy.’

The regulations have now been amended to clarify that Monitor does not have the power to direct a commissioner to hold a competitive tender. They also now require commissioners to record how their awarding of a contract complies with the duties on them to secure integration.

Health minister Lord Howe said: ‘We have taken concerns about the regulations very seriously and want to put beyond doubt their intended purpose. We have acted quickly to address the issues and lay revised regulations.

‘It has never been and is absolutely not the government’s intention to make all NHS services subject to competitive tendering or to force competition for services.’

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