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Alliance calls for NHS providers to get priority

By Gareth Iacobucci

The NHS Alliance is urging the Government to slam the brakes on privatisation of NHS services by adopting new rules on APMS tendering.

Under its proposals PCTs would be barred from approaching independent providers unless they could satisfy detailed criteria that existing NHS services were not meeting quality standards.

In Scotland legislation has already been brought in to bar private companies from taking over the running of NHS services.

It also backs the Department of Health's advice to NHS trusts to give current providers ‘at least two chances' to improve where they are found to be under-performing, and for alternative providers to only be considered as a last resort.

In a paper entitled Rebalancing the Market, launched at last week' NHS Alliance Conference in Manchester, the organisation backs the Government's shift in emphasis, and recommends a revamp to the way services are tendered for.

For years PCTs have been encouraged to court private providers to bid for APMS contracts but the Alliance advises that in the future, PCTs should only invite private bidders in to bid to run services where there are no current providers of sufficient quality willing to tender.

It also calls on SHAs and PCTs to offer ‘formal support' to NHS bidders during the tendering process, and recommends bidders be assessed on their ability to provide continuity of care and engage with local patient groups.

Dr Brian Fisher MBE, public and patient involvement lead, at the NHS Alliance, who presented the paper, said: ‘This will respect the importance of continuity in integration of local services and organisations that have historically provided a good local service.

‘It will encourage competition where services are of insufficient standard or too expensive, without destabilising primary care provision when it is already good.'

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