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NHS competition funds wasted, report warns

By Gareth Iacobucci

The NHS has absorbed all the costs of competition without yet realising the benefits, according to a report by thinktank Civitas.

The Impact Of The NHS Market says that although market forces have contributed to improved access for patients, reduced waiting times, and increased efficiency, progress is being held back by all-powerful providers and weak commissioners.

The report says the problems are also arising from a lack of innovation in the service, and claims payment systems encourage providers to be 'average'.

It concludes that practice-based commissioning is being hampered because many involved are more interested in self-provision than commissioning new services, as well as citing the lack of quality of financial infrastructure and information, and poor governance.

Author Laura Brereton said: 'Market-based reform in the NHS promised great things, but, as things stand, it has yet to bring about the benefits we see from markets in other industries in any comprehensive form: increased responsiveness to customers; better quality; improved efficiency; and innovation.'

James Gubb, director of the health unit at Civitas, said: 'This review could not have come at a more important time, when debate about the future of the market in the NHS is intensifying and finances are starting to bite.'

'Whilst the NHS is better than it was in 2002, wavering commitment to the idea of a market has unquestionably stymied the impact it could have had.'