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The text of a letter sent to Emily Thornberry MP, March 2013
I am absolutely appalled by articles in many newspapers about the NHS, and in particular by the scope for corruption amongst GPs.with stories such as 'Doctors using NHS in 'abhorrent' way to push private practice, Whitehall boss admits', in the Daily Telegraph. We were told again and again that the worry about the Act and the Regulations were 'overblown', but evidently they were not. Is the Secretary of State and the Department being dishonest or incompetent?
No doubt you are aware of the verdict [on the way the Regulations were introduced] by the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee
I won't include any attachments because I'm sure the Department has a press cuttings service. For goodness sake, act urgently to stop what's going on, and if the Regulations were not intended to lead to wholesale privatization come what may, amend them immediately and cancel the contracts!
Reply from the Department of Health to the second concern above, about wholesale privatization of the Health Service:
"...... The Government acknowledges that the precise wording of the regulations has created confusion in some quarters about what the legal effect of the regulations would be. In particular, there has been extensive concern about whether the regulations would effectively make all NHS services subject to competitive tendering. While this is not, and never has been, the Government’s intention, ministers have taken the concerns expressed very seriously, and have taken action to ensure there would be no doubt about what the regulations would do.
The Government listened to stakeholders and members of both Houses of Parliament, with a view to improving the regulations and removing any scope for misinterpretation. Ministers introduced the new regulations on 11 March. The new regulations replace the 13 February regulations, and make absolutely clear that:
- there is no requirement to put all contracts out to competitive tender. This means that commissioners are able to offer contracts to one provider where only that provider is capable of providing the services;
- the healthcare regulator, Monitor, has no power to force the competitive tendering of services, ensuring that decisions about how and when to introduce competition is solely up to the doctors and nurses in clinical commissioning groups (CCGs); and
- competition should not override integration, which commissioners should use where it is in the interests of patients.
Further information responding to misinterpretations of the effect of the regulations can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nhs-procurement-patient-choice-and-competition-regulations-2013-department-of-health-response-to-legal-opinions.
Ministers also appreciate that CCGs will require help and support to enable them to comply with the regulations in a fair and consistent way. With this in mind, Monitor will be publishing guidance on compliance with the regulations, in accordance with a requirement in the Health and Social Care Act 2012. NHS England is also working with Monitor on a choice and competition framework that will provide guidance to both commissioners and providers on the circumstances in which introducing competition for services would be likely to be effective and where it would not be appropriate.
Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries
Department of Health