The news of Care UK’s acquisition of out-of-hours GP provider Harmoni should be a wake-up call to commissioners.
As the Government’s NHS reforms lead to an expansion of the market in healthcare, we will increasingly see small providers – both out-of-hours and in-hours – becoming bigger and merging to try to capture market share.
CCGs will have to make sure they are ‘wearing the trousers’. This will be crucial if we want the NHS to continue to be publicly accountable – the commissioner is the defender of the public purse.
They must try to make sure they commission robustly and check private providers provide the best quality as well as cost-effective care.
CCGs must keep track of private providers to ensure they are not offering a loss-leading service that puts others at a disadvantage.
Ultimately we need to have a level playing field for all NHS providers, nothing should be guaranteed. It would be a real pity if only a handful of big private healthcare providers had the monopoly of provision.
Dr Michael Dixon is interim president of NHS Clinical Commissioners