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MPs reject call for NHS competition to be scrapped

MPs have rejected a motion to reverse the use of competition mandated by the Government’s health reforms, as opposition politicians claimed that CCGs were spending millions on external legal advice.

The motion, which was voted on by MPs yesterday, called on the Government to ‘reverse its changes to NHS competition policy that are holding back the integration needed to help solve the A&E crisis and diverting resources which should be better spent on improving patient care’.

But the motion – proposed by Labour’s shadow health team – was voted down by 299 MPs to 232, with a completely amended version instead accepted (by 298 to 231).

The motion, brought by the Government, instead noted perceived achievements during its term, including ‘the strong performance of NHS A&Es this winter’. It also welcomed ‘the changes to the GP contract which restore the personal link between doctors and their most vulnerable patients’.

During the debate over the motions in the House of Commons yesterday, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: ‘They are spending millions of pounds on competition advice under the new regime introduced with the Health and Social Care Act. Five million pounds spent in the last year, since April, by CCGs on external competition legal advice. How can that possibly be justifiable at a time when we have a shortage of A&E doctors?’

But health secretary Jeremy Hunt responded by denying that the Act had brought any change to competition regulations.

He added: ‘Again with regard to procurement, the HSCA 2012 didn’t introduce new rules. For all his efforts to convince people otherwise, CCGs follow the same procurement requirements that PCTs did.’

It comes as a Pulse investigation in the autumn showed that a majority of new contracts have been put out to competition by CCGs since last April, and as local enhanced services contracts worth millions will be opened up to competition from April this year.