Referral management 'breaches competition laws', report says

PCT's attempts to cap referrals to certain providers breach NHS competition rules, according to the NHS Competition and Cooperation Panel (CCP).

Lord Carter: the report highlights that some parts of the NHS have yet to fully embrace the role of choice and competition
Lord Carter: the report highlights that some parts of the NHS have yet to fully embrace the role of choice and competition

In its report on the use of 'any willing provider' by PCTs, the panel found that a number of strategies to limit or redirect referrals are restricting patient's choice and are in breach of the NHS Constitution.

The panel had been investigation complaints that PCTs were limiting the amount of patients sent to independent sector providers to help limit costs.

Its interim report, the panel has advised the following behaviours be 'addressed':

  • Restricting patient choice of provider for routine elective care through directions to GPs, waiting list requirements, and referral processes which direct patients to particular to providers;
  • Inserting provisions into contracts with providers that restrict patient choice including, for example, activity caps and reductions in the types of procedures that providers can offer;
  • Creating incentives that undermine patient choice, for example, setting different prices for different providers, local price negotiations, and block contracts.

CCP chair Lord Carter of Coles said the report 'highlights that some parts of the NHS have yet to fully embrace the role of choice and competition'.

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