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Field expresses ‘concern’ over competition legislation

The former head of the Government’s ‘listening exercise’ over the health act has expressed his concern over the proposed wording of the competition legislation, saying there should be no backtracking on previous committments ministers have made to put patients first.

Professor Steve Field, the former chair of the NHS Future Forum and currently the NHS Commissioning Board’s deputy medical director, called for clarity regarding whether they met the promises made by ministers at the time the Health and Social Care Act was reviewed.

Commenting via the social networking site Twitter, Professor Field said the NHS Future Forum had been clear that competition was ‘not an end in itself’ but should be used to improve patient care.

He said: ‘There should be no backtracking on Government commitments. We had assurances that they would be true to their commitments when we presented in the Cabinet room in Downing Street and in their response to our papers. I have been assured that this remains the case. But the wording concerns me.

‘I would like to see the Government clarify how the regulations are consistent with the commitments that they gave the NHS Future Forum and the public generally.’

The comments come after the GPC warned that GPs will be forced to waste time and money defending their practice resources from competition under proposed legislation for the NHS that will require CCGs to put all services out to tender ‘as a default’.

The proposed regulations, under section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act, remain subject to Parliamentary approval.

Health minister Lord Howe said: ‘There is no Government policy to privatise NHS services. These regulations are about ensuring that when services are tendered for, whether from NHS, voluntary sector or independent providers, the rules that are applied to the process are fair to all concerned. They are consistent in all respects with the commitments given by Ministers during the passage of the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

‘It is absolutely right to enable a commissioner to seek better alternatives to ensure the highest quality services possible are delivered to patients. This is why we have always said that competition in the NHS should never be pursued as an end in itself, but only where this is in the interests of patients. This principle underpins the right of patients to exercise choice when accessing treatments under the NHS, a right enshrined in the NHS Constitution.’

Pulse Live: 30 April - 1 May, Birmingham

Pulse Live, Pulse’s new two-day annual conference for GPs, practice managers and primary care managers, will feature a session on ‘Commissioning: What’s in it for me and my practice’.

Pulse Live offers practical advice on key clinical and practice business topics, as well as an opportunity to debate the future of the profession, and a top range of speakers includes NICE chair designate Professor David Haslam, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey and the Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell MP, chair of the House of Commons health committee.

To find out more and book your place, please click here.