The letter confirms that GP commissioners will ‘spearhead’ efforts to make the £20bn of efficiency savings the NHS is targeting by 2014/15.
But it looks to allay fears that the Health Bill signalled a shift away from competition on quality, with providers paid a fixed NHS tariff, to competition on price.
In a letter to PCTs, SHAs and GP consortia, NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson said there was ‘no question of introducing price competition’.
‘A new flexibility to agree prices below the national tariff rate is not intended to facilitate a move towards price competition,’ he wrote, adding that this option was for use only in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
Sir David wrote that ‘whether and to what extent’ the any willing provider policy would be ‘mandated nationally for particular services’ was yet to be decided.
But he added: ‘Where service integration and continuity of care is important to secure the best clinical outcomes, patient experience and value for money, the intention is that commissioners will be able to go to competitive tender and offer the service to one provider or "prime contractor".’