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11-03-2013 | General practice | Article

Government rewords competition regs


Department of Health – Legislation

medwireNews: The Department of Health has reworded the controversial Section 75 legislation after fierce lobbying by campaigners, the BMA and medical royal colleges.

After the proposed legislation was first laid in parliament last month, ministers were accused of "privatisation by stealth" by requiring CCGs to tender all services for competition, although they insisted this was not the case.

"I believe we now have a set of regulations which puts this beyond doubt," said health minister Lord Howe in a press statement.

The revised regulations say that there will be no requirement for competitive tendering and that commissioners can offer contracts to a single provider where only that provider is able to offer the service. Additionally, they state that while the regulator Monitor cannot enforce competition, it is still responsible for challenging "anti-competitive behaviour". However, the regulations also clarify that anti-competitive behaviour can be used if in the best interests of patients, for example, to allow integration.

Ministers have repeatedly insisted that the procurement regulations did not differ to those put in place by the previous government and that concerns were due to their "precise wording". Lord Howe said in a press statement: "It has never been and is absolutely not the Government's intention to make all NHS services subject to competitive tendering or to force competition for services."

BMA Chair, Dr Mark Porter, said that the redraft should provide greater clarity for commissioners. However, he indicated the association will not back down from their call for a full parliamentary debate "to provide absolute clarity that CCGs will have the freedom to decide how best to secure high quality services for local populations".

The BMA said they are anticipating the publication of commissioning guidance by Monitor and the NHS Commissioning Board which is expected before the regulations come into effect on 1st April.

medwireNews is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Kirsty Oswald