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“S75 debate focussed on politics not patients”

The House of Lords will vote today on whether to pass the Section 75 regulations, which states that CCGs must put all services out to tender unless they can prove it could only be provided by one particular provider. The regulations have been criticised by the BMA, CCG leaders, and the NHS Confederation – which has called on the government to refrain from “creating a barrage of bureaucratic procedures”.

This, however, is what David Worskett, chief executive of the NHS Partners Network, believes:

We are concerned the debate around the Section 75 regulations has focussed on politics rather than patients, and that so much which has been said about the regulations is misleading and even scaremongering.

All these amended regulations do is put on a statutory basis the existing position on competition and procurement which was established by the last Government. UK law on procurement and competition remains unchanged, but the regulations are an important means of helping the NHS work within that basic framework. Empowering a specialist regulator that understands and respects the NHS and the needs of patients is far better than leaving the job to generalist regulators and the courts.

After the Francis report, the Government quite rightly stressed  the importance of always putting patients first and giving them choice about their care. As part of that, it is absolutely essential that commissioners are encouraged to introduce challenge and innovation into a system that has on occasions put its corporate interests ahead of the interests of patients.

Despite allegations to the contrary, the regulations do not require all NHS services to be put out to tender. Commissioners will have wide discretion as to when to use full procurement procedures and we are confident they will do so appropriately. The NHS is not able to survive and thrive without the help of new providers who bring innovation and integration, which we know drives up quality. But to enable them to enter the system, fair, open and transparent procurement processes are essential and this is what the new regulations provide.

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