Lords attempt to kill section 75 NHS competition regulations

Opponents of controversial NHS competition regulations are set to make a last-ditch attempt to overturn the new rules.

Parliament: 24 April attempt to kill off competition legislation.
Parliament: 24 April attempt to kill off competition legislation.
Opponents of controversial NHS competition regulations are set to make a last-ditch attempt to overturn the new rules.

Labour has tabled a so-called ‘fatal motion’ in the House of Lords to throw-out ‘section 75’ of the Health and Social Care Act which opponents say opens the door to privatisation of NHS services.

Last week ministers were forced to defend the regulations after campaigners presented legal opinion that the NHS (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) (No. 2) Regulations 2013 could force commissioners to put all services out to tender.

DH said the purpose of the regulations was simply to transfer existing procurement requirements from PCTs to CCGs and to allow the regulator, Monitor, to enforce the rules.

DH officials rewrote the original ‘section 75’ 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The GPC has demanded the regulations be withdrawn. Deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the changes since the first draft did not go far enough to reassure CCGs they would have the freedom to procure in the way they want. Dr Vautrey said there should be a debate in Parliament.

Labour’s deputy leader in the Lords and health spokesman, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, tabled the motion to annul the regulations which will be debated on 24 April.

Lord Hunt told the campaign group OurNHS: 'Parliament was assured that clinicians would be under no legal obligation to create new markets. The regulations being debated in Parliament provide no such reassurance.

‘They will promote and permit privatisation and extend competition into every quarter of the NHS regardless of patients' interests.

‘The Lords reported that many NHS professional institutions believe that the regulations make competition the default approach, whilst imposing a burden of proof on commissioners wishing to restrict competition. Indeed, there is a real risk that it will be the courts rather than doctors who will decide the extent of competition and the tendering of services.’

The motion is supported by the crossbench peer and former health minister Lord David Owen. He told OurNHS: "The basic choice for peers is, do we support our own scrutiny procedure? Or do we continue to allow the government to make changes to the NHS, without proper consultations, democratic authorisation and on specious grounds of urgency?

‘For two years, far reaching and fundamental reforms, which only ideologues want, are being pushed through on arguments which are misleading at best and bogus at worst. These regulations in their present form will lead only to turmoil and fragmentation, and should now be withdrawn or annulled.’

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