Labour to challenge 'full blown market' in NHS reforms

Labour will step up its challenge to the NHS reforms by claiming the plans introduce a threat of legal action over anti-competitive practice that will 'wreak havoc' with commissioning.

John Healey: Health Bill will expose the NHS to full force of competition law (Photograph: Mark Weeks)
John Healey: Health Bill will expose the NHS to full force of competition law (Photograph: Mark Weeks)

At a committee stage meeting on the reforms on Tuesday, the shadow health team was set to demand the removal of the whole middle third of the Bill, which opens up commissioning to ‘any willing provider’.

This section will grant the regulator Monitor powers to fine commissioning groups up to 10% of their turnover for anti-competitive practice, Labour claims. The powers would be in line with those currently exercised by the Office of Fair Trading.

Speaking at a press briefing before the committee meeting, Shadow health minister John Healey said the Health and Social Care Bill will expose the NHS to full force of competition law.

Any provider or commissioner believed to be acting against competition law could face a legal challenge from spurned private providers that could go all the way to the European courts, he said.

Mr Healey said: ‘At the heart of the new system is that it is not the decision of GPs, it is the competition regulator that will call the shots.’

He said a group of GPs who wanted to collaborate with a hospital on care pathways could be regarded as colluding and may fall foul of competition laws.

Mr Healey said the coalition could achieve its aims of greater clinician involvement, a focus on outcomes and even reorganisation without this section of the Health Bill.

Shadow minister Liz Kendall said: ‘In terms of consequence, GPs will be forced to put contracts out to tender because of competition law, not on patient needs.’

She claimed the costs to GPs and hospitals of hiring dozens of lawyers and accountants to prevent the risk of going to court, and the necessary insurance, would be ‘a huge problem’.

Ms Kendall said this would lead to healthcare becoming more, not less, fragmented.

Labour said at least two thirds of GPs were against the plans.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

GPs hit out over 'unacceptable' bid to force them into 62,000-patient network

GPs hit out over 'unacceptable' bid to force them into 62,000-patient network

London GPs have hit out at plans to force them into a primary care network (PCN)...

Government facing legal action over state-backed GP indemnity

Government facing legal action over state-backed GP indemnity

A leading medical defence organisation is launching legal action against the government...

Guidelines for GPs based on 'opinion rather than evidence'

Guidelines for GPs based on 'opinion rather than evidence'

Many GP guidelines are based on 'opinion rather than evidence' and could drive up...

Wellbeing for GPs: Advice for newly-qualified GPs

Wellbeing for GPs: Advice for newly-qualified GPs

Dr Anish Kotecha offers new GPs some practical tips on how to ensure their wellbeing...

Hospital takeovers of GP practices 'against spirit of NHS long-term plan'

Hospital takeovers of GP practices 'against spirit of NHS long-term plan'

Vertical integration schemes that involve GP practices becoming subcontractors to...

NHS Counter Fraud Authority to investigate 'losses to fraud' in general practice

NHS Counter Fraud Authority to investigate 'losses to fraud' in general practice

The NHS Counter Fraud Authority has identified possible fraud around GP capitation...