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Competition over NHS tenders ‘gets in commissioners’ way’, says BMA

Competition over NHS tenders ‘gets in commissioners’ way’, says BMA

28 February 2018

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The NHS needs to be free from tendering competition to stop legal obligations 'getting in the way of commissioners', the BMA has said.

Speaking before the Health and Social Care Committee yesterday (27 February), Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that ‘we need a system free from tendering competition that enables cooperation without the legal threat’.

He continued: ‘The legal system around procurement is getting in the way of commissioners.

The NHS needs to be free from tendering competition to stop legal obligations 'getting in the way of commissioners', the BMA has said.

Speaking before the Health and Social Care Committee yesterday (27 February), Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that ‘we need a system free from tendering competition that enables cooperation without the legal threat’.

He continued: ‘The legal system around procurement is getting in the way of commissioners.

‘Current procurement law means that the provision wholesale of a large healthcare economy is opened up to any non-NHS providers, which is an inherent problem in the creation of an Accountable Care Organisation (ACO).'

Bidding process

Under English law, NHS commissioners must use a non-discriminative bidding process when procuring services.

Dr Nagpaul argued that ‘spending money in the processes of tendering is throwing tax payers’ money away’.

He said: ‘How much money is spent in the process of tendering?

‘If a single GP surgery closed and was forced to go out to the market, it could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds of local tendering process.

‘That has to stop.’

NHS privatisation?

The Committee argued that, with CCGs spending 7.7% of their budget on private contracts, ‘there is no evidence of NHS privatisation and Americanisation’.

Committee member Martin Vickers said: ‘Privatisation isn’t going to happen in the NHS.

‘No serious politicians would even contemplate putting it forward.

‘If a specific service can still be provided free at the point of need to the patient and more efficiently, then that has got to be an advantage. Outcomes are what we should be looking at.’

Fixed-term contract

Dr Nagpaul also urged the Government to ‘drop’ the controversial ACO system.

An ACO will offer a fixed-term contract to the chosen provider, which – as in all commercial contracts – has within it ‘the ability for the provider to walk away’, he said.

He continued: ‘If you believe in integrated arrangements and not in having the commercial sector running the NHS, then change the arrangements to enable it to happen properly.

‘We should drop ACOs. Putting out contract for large areas of healthcare that are opened for commercial organisations within a ten-year contract will be bad for the NHS.’

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