A Government minister says he wants ‘scrap’ the involvement of the Office of Fair Trading in procurement decisions, as it is barrier to developing more integrated services.
Health minister Norman Lamb said he had a problem with the OFT being involved in procurement decisions and that ‘it has got to change’.
The comments were made at a conference to discuss how CCGs and local authorities can prepare plans for the Government’s £3.8bn ‘Better Care’ fund, which aims to better integrate services.
In its plan for 2013/14, the OFT signalled an increased focus on the public sector ‘including markets such as healthcare’, saying that it would tackle any breaches of competition law.
The OFT reviews mergers involving foundation trust hospitals in order to determine whether overall the merger is in the interests of patients, in a role confirmed in the Health and Social Care Act.
But speaking at the King’s Fund today Mr Lamb said: ‘I have a problem with the OFT being involved in all of these procurement issues. I think it has got to change. In my view, I think it should be scrapped… We have got to look at the barriers and address them and sort them out.’
Speaking at the same event, Ed Scully, the deputy director for integrated care at the DH, said he was looking at changing section 75 of the 2006 NHS Act to ensure that pooled budgets could include GP practices.
He said: ‘We have recognised that there is a problem in the legislation, for how we can bring primary care into the Better Care fund.
‘That is around section 75 [S75(2) of the NHS Act 2006 which provides the legal framework for pooled budgets] and we are doing some work, we are going to do some work on how we can change that so that it will be easier for primary care to participate in communities.’
CCGs and local authorities are expected to present a first draft of their integrated care plans by next month, if they want to tap into the £3.8bn fund that will become available in the 2015/16 financial year.
Please note: This article was amended at 18:47 to reflect that Ed Scully was referring to section 75 of the NHS Act 2006, rather than section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012.