Hospital Dr News

Changes to Health Bill to prevent undercutting

The health secretary has been forced into a ‘climb down’ over price competition in the NHS.

Andrew Lansley is to table amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill to stop GP consortia, hospitals and other providers from undercutting each other on price. He will remove all phrases using ‘maximum price’.

The changes will also prevent the possibility of differential pricing between NHS and private providers.

Doctors’ representatives were concerned that Monitor, the NHS market regulator, could set a discretionary maximum tariff, which would allow providers to compete on price rather than on quality.

Last month, NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson wrote to trusts saying there was ‘no question’ of introducing competition on price into the NHS, but critics questioned the government’s commitment without amendments to the Bill.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Our modernisation plans have always been about competition on quality, not on price. We want the tariff to be a nationally-regulated price, not a starting-point for price competition. These amendments do not reflect a change in policy, they clarify our position and put our intentions beyond doubt.”

The BMA welcomed the commitment. Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of BMA council, said: “Price competition has been linked with lower quality and was of huge concern to the BMA and many others. We welcome the fact that the health secretary has not only listened to doctors’ views, but also acted on them.

“There is of course still a long way to go to address all the concerns doctors have about the Bill, such as Monitor’s powers to enforce competition. We will continue to press for further improvements and hope the government will continue to listen.”

In a survey of doctors, 65% agreed that increased competition in the NHS will reduce the quality of patient care.

Anti-marketisation campaigners will be relieved following a recent pronouncement by David Bennett, chairman-designate of Monitor. The regulator currently oversees foundation trusts but it due to get a beefed up role in the new system with a remit to promote competition.

Bennett told the FT last month that ruling out price competition in the provision of NHS services would be a mistake.

Read a blog on competition in the NHS.

Bookmark and Share

One Response to “Changes to Health Bill to prevent undercutting”

  1. Bob Bury says:

    I suppose the most likely outcome to this big bang reform programme is that, piece by piece as the underlying flaws are brought to light, it will degenerate into a re-badging of PCTs as ‘consortia’ with a few GPs bunged into the mix, and nothing very much will change.

    Which is probably the best we can hope for.

Post a Comment

Enter this security code

Submit Comment for Moderation