This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Government backs down and agrees to redraft NHS competition rules

The Government has announced a rethink of its proposed rules on the use of competition by commissioners, following intense pressure from GP leaders and campaigners.

Health minister Norman Lamb told MPs in the House of Commons that the Department of Health was rewording the the controversial regulations based on section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act after they had ‘generated significant concerns about their effect’.

He said the wording of the legislation has ‘inadvertently created confusion’ and claimed that it was not the intention for the rules to go further than those inherited from the Labour government.

The move comes after the chair of the RCGP, Professor Clare Gerada, became the latest high profile GP to call for the withdrawal of the regulations.

Last week, Pulse reported that the chair of the NHS Alliance, Dr Michael Dixon, reported that onerous competition requirements will lead to GPs abandoning CCGs. The GPC also warned that the regulations were a ‘betrayal’ of the Government’s commitment to give clinical commissioners autonomy.

Mr Lamb said the regulations had to be in line with the assurances given to Parliament over the Health and Social Care Bill, including former health secretary Andrew Lansley’s commitment that ‘commissioners, and not the secretary of state, and not the regulators, should decide when and how competition should be used to serve patient interests’.

He said: ‘I fully recognise that the wording of the regulations has inadvertently created confusion and generated significant concerns about their effect.

‘I have therefore listened to people’s concerns and my department is acting quickly to improve the drafting so that there can be no doubt that the regulations go no further than the previous set of principles and rules that we inherited from the previous Labour Government.’

‘Concerns have been raised that commissioners would need to tender all services. This is not our intention and we will amend the regulations to remove any doubt that this is the case and clarify that the position remains the same as at present.’

Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said there was ‘complete confusion’ about the job CCGs are being asked to do.

‘[The coalition] is in this mess because the “doctors will decide” mantra was always a figleaf for their true ideological purpose of driving competition and privatisation into the heart of the NHS.’

Dr Mark Porter, Chair of BMA Council, said it was urgent that commissioners were ‘completely clear about the rules’ by April.

He said: ‘The new version of the regulations must be crystal clear on the key areas about which the BMA and other healthcare organisations had serious reservations.

‘Commissioners must not be forced into tendering services inappropriately, wasting the NHS precious time and money.’

Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the RCGP, told Pulse she was ‘delighted’ by the rethink. She said: ‘I’m pleased we’ve been vinidicated. These regulations have been poorly written and had been completely against what had been promised during the discussions and consultations.’

However, she added she was ‘not confident about anything’ to do with the Government’s intentions and nothing would have changed ‘if it wasn’t for a few brave people creating concern’.

She added: ‘I don’t think this was an error, it was a deliberate attempt to put through regulations that would set in stone forever a privatised health service, with all the expense that would incur and all the damage to patient case it would cause.’

Dr Michael Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance, said: ‘This is excellent news. One can’t give an unconditional welcome to it until we see exactly what those new regulations are. But the rhetoric of the minister is such that is seems absolutely clear that he understands the problem and is on the side of commissioners in terms of allowing them to do their job.’


Readers' comments (15)

  • Using the newly minted Gerada- Dixon formula, we may be a bit closer to discovering how many doctors it takes to change a light bulb ( and govt policy)! Credit where it's due for listening, but we'll hold the sparkling water till the revised text is out.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • i agree
    Champagne not yet on ice - way to go

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Lord Howe must feel a bit of an arse.......

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I didn't realise Howe was a Lib Dem (thank you, I'll be here all week.!)

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Maybe the regs will be redrafted but they will come back with honeyed phrases which mean the same. We know the direction of travel, competition law remains operative, the government decided not to apply for an opt out of EU law regarding health services.

    Allyson Pollock spoke at the MPU conference on Saturday and was absolutely clear about this. The message is local campaigns are vital to make implementation of tendering as difficult as possible. Otherwise there will be less and less of the NHS there by the time of the next election. CCG flexibilities are getting very limited now - GPs are 'in charge' or will be blamed for the shrinking of the NHS.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Good to see that potitcal pressure can still work. However it takes a completely united profession, including all the Royal Colleges, to sway government, and GPs need to sing from the same hymn sheet,something which commissioning has sadly denied for three years.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous 2:57 - Lord Howe isnt a Lib Dem - see

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • andrew Field

    Procurement is massively loaded to benefit big players and lawyers. The NHS is cruising into a nightmare of legalese and corporate dealing which it is massively unprepared for. Particularly concerning are the providers like Care UK and Assura with influence at the DoH not to mention the Department's favoured assessors KPMG and McKinsey - have no fear, they'll make it work for them whatever re-wording occurs.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • strange that it's Norman Lamb not Jeremy Hunt announcing it!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Vinci Ho

    Why is it only now,4 weeks before 1/4/2013 when the bill is actually implemented, that the government is willing to make a so called U turn? Why not earlier?
    Is it really a U turn?
    There is always a political meaning when a government tries to be 'understanding and kind' before imposing something draconian.......Don't be so naive.............

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page

Have your say