One in four PCT services only opened to competition after DH pressure

PCTs had no plans to alter provision of a quarter of services offered under the 'any qualified provider' (AQP) scheme until told to do so by the DH, a Labour party investigation has found.

DH has said that PCTs will be ready to expand the AQP scheme
DH has said that PCTs will be ready to expand the AQP scheme

A Freedom of Information investigation by Labour asked England’s PCTs what plans they had for offering services under AQP before the government instructed them to do so.

It showed that, of the 398 services offered out to AQP, 110 services (27.6%), there was no intention by the PCT to change the provider before the government instructed them to do so.

A party spokesman said: ‘The requirement for PCTs to put three of their community services to AQP has forced PCTs to tender services that were already being delivered to a high quality.

‘For example, Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale PCT picked adult hearing but prior to the instruction, they said: "There was no plan to redesign the adult hearing services due to extremely high outcomes."’

Labour said that the minimum total estimated value of the contracts offered through AQP was £261,580,272. It also said that there are at least 37 private companies which had applied to take on services put out through AQP.

The questions asked of each PCT were in reference to the Operational Guidance to the NHS – Extending Patient Choice of Provider published by the DH last July.

Some PCTs cited ‘commercial confidentiality’ as the reason for refusing to answer some of the questions asked such as the value of the contracts.

This week, the DH said that PCTs would be ready to expand its AQP policy to 39 service areas by the end of this month.

The DH has previously said that the expansion of AQP to 39 service areas was not top down. It said this was because commissioners were able to choose which areas to put out to AQP following consultations with GPs and patients.

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