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Act will force CCGs into expensive tendering

College chair says Monday will bring wholesale dismantling of the NHS

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Health and Social Care Act 2012, which comes into force next Monday, will bring about wholesale dismantling of the NHS and its privatisation along the lines of the US insurance industry, said Dr Clare Gerada this morning. In her editorial in the BMJ she warned that clinical commissioning groups will be forced into conducting expensive tendering processes for services, despite former health secretary Andrew Lansley’s written promise to the contrary.

The chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners called the Government’s claim that commissioning will be led by GPs “misleading”, and said that instead it represents “a front for privatisation plans that will leave trusted GPs bearing the brunt of the public’s wrath while much of the health budget is handed over to the for-profit commercial sector, services are closed, and entitlements to universal healthcare are eroded”.

Dr Gerada points out that last year both Andrew Lansley and the then health minister Simon Burns denied that commissioners would be forced to put services out to competitive tender – and Lord Howe said last month that commissioners would not be obliged to do so “where no market exists and there is only one provider capable of delivering their requirements”.

But she warns that because it will be difficult to know for sure whether or not other potential providers exist, in practice competitive tendering will be legally avoidable only in exceptional circumstances. She asks: “How can any group be sure that there is only one possible provider except by undertaking an expensive tender? The alternative is to risk the wrath of the competition regulator and a legal battle.”

Dr Gerada is concerned that no one appears to understand the regulations, which appear to conflict with the Government’s previously stated intentions. She insists that although the Act has already been passed, because of the “current confusion between the legal instruments and ministerial reassurances” the only sensible and fair course of action “is to have a legislative pause, and for ministers to revoke the regulations while they undergo proper legal scrutiny and clarity is obtained”.

She concludes: “Clinical commissioning groups must have the legal freedom not to put all services out to the market. The current policy that puts GPs in the invidious position of presiding over the dismantling of our NHS is a monumental betrayal of the public by the government, and it will ultimately damage the trust between GPs and their patients.”

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