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Monitor vows to tackle GP commissioning 'collusion'

Controversial health regulator Monitor has vowed to crackdown on collusion in NHS commissioning, in a move to quell fears that GP commissioners and service providers could 'collude' to monopolise care.

Dr David Bennett, chair and interim chief executive of Monitor, told delegates at the Westminster Health Forum that the regulator will tackle collusion, saying the practice is illegal and stifles patient choice. Yet Bennett acknowledged that there are legitimate cases where cooperation was in the best interest of patients, despite reducing competition.

‘As cooperation moves towards collusion, then clearly the negative impact on competition becomes severe. If it is fully blown collusion it is illegal and needs to be dealt with,' said Dr Bennett.

‘It is inevitably a spectrum and we will have to look at it on a case-by-case basis. We always have to consider what is going to provide the best benefits for patients.'

Dr Bennett also said that Monitor, at the heart of much of the controversy over Andrew Lansley's health reforms, will also work with the NHS Commissioning Board to address concerns over potential conflicts of interest where GP commissioners also have provider roles.

He added: ‘At some minimal level, it is likely to be fine that someone who is a GP commissioner also provides some services. At the opposite end, it would be inappropriate for GPs to provide services but not offer their patients any choice,'

‘We need to assess where it is perfectly natural for GPs to provide services themselves, and where we need to make sure patients can access alternative providers.'   

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