NHS (Procurement, patient choice and competition) Regulations
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The Government has now laid out revised NHS (Procurement, patient choice and competition) Regulations.

The previous regulations went no further than the set of procurement guidelines issued in March 2010. However, I recognise that concerns were raised about the wording. I am pleased that the Government has listened carefully to those concerns and has improved the drafting of the regulations so there can be no doubt about how they apply.

The position remains the same as now, that there is no requirement to put all contracts out to competitive tender. This means that commissioners are able to offer contracts to a single provider where only that provider is capable of providing the services.

Monitor, the regulator, has no power to force the competitive tendering of services so decisions about how and when to introduce competition to improve services are solely up to doctors and nurses in clinical commissioning groups. Competition should not trump integration. Commissioners are free to use integration where it is in the interest of patients.

Monitor and the NHS Commissioning Board will publish guidance to commissioners to help inform their decision making in the coming weeks. This guidance will make clear that the existing requirements on competitive tendering will continue to apply.

It has never been the Government’s intention to make all NHS services subject to competitive tendering, or to force competition for service. That would compromise the power and freedom that the Government is giving to local doctors and nurses. I believe we now have a set of regulations which puts this beyond doubt.

The regulations were laid in Parliament on 11 March 2013 and will come in to effect from 1 April.

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