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Too much competition unwise in current climate, NHS boss warns

By Gareth Iacobucci

A leading NHS chief has warned that the Government's push to increase competition in primary care may lead to valuable NHS resources being wasted.

Mike Farrar, chief executive of NHS North West, warned that creating too much over-capacity could be unwise in the current financial climate.

Pulse recently revealed that PCTs are set to renew efforts to attract the private sector into primary care after failing to meet Government targets to increase competition. This came after detailed SHA assessments of PCTs commissioning skills found they had not gone far enough to open up the primary care market.

But, speaking at a World Class Commissioning conference hosted by the NHS Alliance and the Healthcare Financial Management Association, Mr Farrar said competition should not be introduced for competition's sake, and should be focussed on areas where it could truly add value.

‘The degree of competition [required] will vary differently in creating plurality. The difficulty is in creating an excess of supply in demand in the current economic climate. We have to be very careful about who is carrying the risk.'

He also said it would be ‘perverse' to judge trusts on how many suppliers they had got, rather than measuring them on the quality of those they did have.

Despite the relatively low scores trusts achieved against targets for opening up the market, Mr Farrar said it was wrong to assume they were underperforming.

He said: ‘It's not a helpful assumption that PCTs are crap at stimulating the market.'

But he added that some PCTs were ‘naïve' about the evidence they need to produce in order to achieve higher scores in their commissioning targets.

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