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Hospital tariff changes a ‘damaging distraction’

By Alisdair Stirling

Government plans to allow maximum tariffs for NHS services could jeopardise quality of care and put patients at risk, a coalition of charities has warned.

The Medical Technology Group said legislation set out in the Health and Social Care Bill which passed its first House of Commons hurdle this week could force cash-strapped hospitals into cutting quality and taking short cuts on safety.

Under the legislation, Monitor will be able to set a maximum price for services, leaving room for other providers to compete for services by undercutting this maximum.

The Medical Technology Group, which represents research charities, patient groups and medical device companies, claims price competition will lead to ‘protracted negotiations’ on price between GP consortia and hospitals and will actually add to the cost of administering the NHS.

It also says the change will be a ‘damaging distraction’ to the challenge of making £20bn savings in the NHS budget.

Barbara Harpham, chair of the Medical Technology Group and director of Heart Research UK said: ‘The standard tariff was introduced with the express purpose of improving competition based on quality alone. This is a step backwards into price competition that runs counter to the Government’s quality agenda and patient-centred approach.’

Hospital tariff changes a ‘damaging distraction’