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Tariff objection threshold challenged as “fundamentally unfair” in Lords


30 November 2015

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The tariff objection threshold has been labelled as “fundamentally unfair” by Lord Hunt of King’s Heath (pictured), as the House of Lords is asked to approve the threshold to become secondary legislation.

The tariff objection threshold has been labelled as “fundamentally unfair” by Lord Hunt of King’s Heath (pictured), as the House of Lords is asked to approve the threshold to become secondary legislation.

The Department of Health’s proposal is to raise the proportion of commissioners or providers that must object from 51 to 66%. It also plans to drop current rules under which objectors can trigger arbitration if they control more than 51 per cent of total supply.

To implement the changes to secondary legislation, the government is currently trying to get it approved from the House of Lords.

However, Lord Hunt of King's Heath is hoping to add an amendment, at the end inserting "but that this House regrets that the Regulations are fundamentally unfair; and do not achieve their policy objective because under their provisions, even if every NHS provider objected to the proposed tariff mechanism, the arbitration mechanism cannot be triggered; and are in direct contradiction” to previous assurances given by Earl Howe, the parliamentary under-secretary of state, Department of Health in 2012.

This comes after last month the Department of Health confirmed measures that will make it harder for providers to block the national tariff payment system, despite the majority of respondents to their consultation disagreeing to the proposals, branding it “too narrow in scope”.

The responses were mainly from commissioners and mental health providers, and 52% of respondents disagreed with the proposal, compared to 46% who agreed.

The DH said, in its response: “respondents thought that our focus on only making improvements to the objection mechanism was seen as too narrow in scope.”

There were calls for a wider review of the whole tariff process from development, through engagement to agreement.

“Many respondents offered alternative proposals, which ranged from: implementing multi-year tariffs; segment the objection process, eg, clarity what can be objected to more clearly; review the definition of ‘relevant provider’ to include mental health, community services and ambulance trust providers; and expand the scope of what can be objected to,” it read.

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