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Keep politics out of competition debate says Farrar

Parliamentarians should avoid taking polarised positions in Lords debate

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The debate over competition in NHS commissioning should centre on the effect on patients rather than on politics, Mike Farrar said this morning. The chief executive of the NHS Confederation warned that it was ‘crucial’ for all Parliamentarians to concentrate on what is right for patients rather than their own narrow political positions.

As the Section 75 regulations of the Health and Social Care Act come up for debate in the House of Lords, he urged the Lords to consider what would lead to the best outcomes for patients, rather than to focus on their own entrenched ideological positions.

Mr Farrar said: “These regulations have proved highly contentious. The key issue here is what is in the best interests of patients. It is right that Parliament scrutinises these proposals in detail, but I would appeal to politicians of all parties to avoid polarised positions and to focus on improving care.

“These regulations need to support NHS commissioners and providers to deliver the highest standard of healthcare services to local communities, and encourage better value for taxpayers.”

He went on to call for competition to be discretionary, and warned that making it compulsory in all circumstances could create unnecessary bureaucracy and increase costs. He said: “Clearly the NHS should not introduce competition in circumstances where it is not in these best interests.

“The NHS needs to use all weapons in its armoury to improve the quality of care for patients. Sometimes that will require competition and on other occasions it may require the consolidation or merger of trusts.

“Where competition is the most effective route to improving care, CCGs [clinical commissioning groups] need to be able to use it at their own local discretion, rather than have it forced upon them for all services. Using competition in such an arbitrary fashion would potentially create a barrage of bureaucratic tendering and procurement procedures, which would inevitably be paid for at the tax payers’ expense. This is not in the interest of commissioners or any aspirant new providers.”

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