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Conflict of interest row over private sector commissioning

By Gareth Iacobucci

The Department of Health has attempted to shoot down suggestions that it has backtracked over the role of the private sector in primary care commissioning, amid fears of potential conflicts of interest.

The move came after it unveiled a list of 14 private healthcare companies who will help PCTs commission services, to coincide with the launch of the Darzi report. They include the likes of Dr Foster, Bupa and UnitedHealth Europe..

The BMA claimed this week that the proposals represented a scaled-down version of original plans and said it was pleased the Government had pressed ahead with the controversial scheme only in ‘pilot areas'.

However, a department spokesperson told Pulse that the launch of the Framework for Procuring External Support for Commissioners (FESC) was not intended to be seen as a pilot project and that the framework was to be made available for PCTs nationally to tap into.

The dispute came as Dr Mike Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance and lead figure for commissioning on Lord Darzi's new advisory board, issued a warning to the Government about the role of the private sector.

He told Pulse that although establishing a framework could potentially help practice-based commissioning flourish, the private companies must not become commissioners of care in their own right.

He said: ‘That's something we must never let happen. It's been quite clear all along, that the NHS needs commissioning support, but nobody wants the outsiders to come in and do the commissioning, especially if they have any vested interests.'

Fears over the potential for conflict of interest – with companies holding both commissioning and providing roles – have surrounded the framework since the plans first emerged.

The department said it expected companies to offer services such as data analysis and contract management expertise to PCTs, stressing they ‘will not deal with the delivery of direct patient care'.

However, Dr Dixon thought there would be ‘a major conflict of interest where a commissioning support team is also bidding to provide primary care'.

But he said he believed GPs should not view the FESC as a challenge or threat.

FESC: The shortlisted companies

- Aetna Health Services (UK) Limited
- AXA PPP Healthcare Administration Services Limited
- BUPA Membership Commissioning Limited
- CHKS Ltd, trading as Partners In Commissioning
- Dr Foster Limited, trading as Dr Foster Intelligence
- Health Dialog Services Corporation
- Humana Europe, Ltd
- McKesson Information Solutions UK Limited
- McKinsey & Company, Inc. United Kingdom
- Navigant Consulting, Inc
- Tribal Consulting Limited
- UnitedHealth Europe Limited
- WG Consulting Healthcare Limited, Trading As WG Consulting

Dr Mike Dixon: Firms must not become commissioners in their own right Dr Mike Dixon: Firms must not become commissioners in their own right

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