DH rejects NHS 'privatisation' claim

Ministers have rejected legal opinions obtained by campaign group 38 Degrees that claim NHS competition regulations will promote privatisation.

The DH rejected claims that its reforms will lead to the privatisation of the NHS
The DH rejected claims that its reforms will lead to the privatisation of the NHS

In a detailed response, the DH said the purpose of the controversial ‘section 75’ regulations was simply to transfer existing procurement requirements from PCTs to CCGs and to allow the regulator, Monitor, to enforce the rules.

Campaigners have said the NHS (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) (No. 2) Regulations 2013 fall short of government assurances that commissioners would not be forced to put all NHS services out to tender.

DH officials agreed to rewrite the original ‘section 75’ 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.

The new DH response said the circumstances in which commissioners could award a contract without competition under the regulations would be identical to the requirements of existing procurement law.

It said commissioners would be able to award contracts without competition where only one provider was capable of meeting requirements specified by commissioners on the basis of meeting patients’ needs, quality, efficiency, access, or improving health outcomes.

The DH response to 38 Degrees said:

  • The application of EU and UK procurement law to NHS services is unaffected by the regulations
  • Claims that the regulations permit or promote the transfer of NHS services to the private sector are inaccurate
  • The regulations do not impose compulsory competitive tendering requirements on commissioners
  • The regulations do not force commissioners to fragment services
  • There is no conflict between meeting patients’ needs and securing best value

The GPC has called for the regulations to be withdrawn. Deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the changes since the first draft did not go far enough to reassure CCGs they will have the freedom to procure in the way that they want.

‘We believe there should be a discussion on the floor of the House of Commons to properly explore and debate this and put something in place that will meet those needs’, he added.

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