DH backs down over controversial 'section 75' competition rules

DH officials will rewrite controversial regulations on competition in the NHS after ministers were forced to back down amid mounting pressure from leading GPs, royal colleges and opposition politicians.

Health minister Norman Lamb: regulations will be redrafted to avoid misinterpretation
Health minister Norman Lamb: regulations will be redrafted to avoid misinterpretation

Health minister Norman Lamb admitted in the House of Commons on Tuesday that regulations due to take effect on 1 April with the Health and Social Care Act had created confusion and would be re-written ‘so they are not open to any misinterpretation’.

Responding to an emergency question from shadow health secretary Andy Burnham asking the government to clarify its position, Mr Lamb said the regulations would be rewritten to make clear that ‘no CCG will be forced into competitive tendering’.

Mr Lamb told MPs: ‘Concerns have been raised that commissioners would have to tender all services. This is not our intention. And we will amend the regulations.'

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'.

Last week the RCGP wrote to the government saying that the regulations must be withdrawn because they will force GP commissioners to open NHS services to competition and destabilise existing providers.

Flanked by former health secretary Andrew Lansley and health minister Dr Dan Poulter, Mr Lamb said the revised regulations would be ‘ready in days’.

He said that the updated version would go ‘no further than previous principles of rules inherited by the previous Labour government’.

Mr Burnham asked why the government needed a 300-page Health Act to ‘rewrite the entire legal basis’ of the NHS if it planned to revert to the previous rules.

The former health secretary said that the coalition had been caught trying to ‘sneak’ through privatisation by 'the back door’.

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