NHS England calls for Lansley procurement rules to be overturned

1 Mar 19

NHS England wants to scrap “overly rigid” procurement laws, which it says can slow up the delivery of services.

Legislation that requires Clinical Commissioning Groups in England to put contracts out to tender should be “repealed and replaced”, the quango, which oversees health commissioning, has said.

A consultation document put before the NHS England board yesterday said: “Current procurement legislation can lead to protracted procurement processes and wasteful legal and administration costs where there is a strong rationale for services to be provided by NHS organisations”.

It suggested commissioners use their discretion to apply a ‘best value test’ – to seek other potential health care providers for a service when it was considered necessary.

Section 75 of the Health and Social Care act 2012 requires CCGs to put out to tender any contract over the value of £615,278, a move that critics suggest has lead to greater privatisation of the NHS.

NHS England said: “We propose that the regulations made under section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 should be revoked and the powers in primary legislation under which they are made should be repealed and replaced by a best value test.”

Doing so would “free the NHS from overly rigid procurement requirements” it said.

The rules have meant private sector providers have sometimes controversially delivered NHS services. PF reported last year how CCGs were being sued due to a lack of clarity around procurement rules.

If NHS England’s suggestion is adopted, this would represent an undoing of former health secretary Andrew Lansley’s reforms.  

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “As the service works to fulfil the ambitions of the NHS long term plan, it makes sense to review whether we can make enabling changes through legislation, recognising that there are other possible ways of addressing the tensions between the current legislative framework and the desired direction of future travel.”

The 2012 act also handed the Competition and Markets Authority powers to block mergers between NHS trusts, but NHS England called for these powers to be removed.

NHS England said: “The current legislation can discourage NHS organisations form collaborating to develop new models of care”.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “Many of the 2012 NHS reforms are no longer fit for purpose.

“We therefore welcome the broad thrust of these proposals which should remove some of the barriers to effective collaboration. In particular, we applaud the proposals which should remove some of the barriers to effective collaboration.”

Rehana Azam, GMB national secretary for public services, said: “GMB has campaigned for the repeal of Section 75 since its introduction. We will look closely at the detail of this proposal but in principle this announcement is both welcome and long overdue.

“Privatisation is demoralising the NHS's workforce and undermining standards of care.”

Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison the union, said: “As the UK heads into a uncertain post-Brexit world, the NHS must be protected from the scourge of unnecessary competition and predatory private firms taking advantage of a possible weakening of UK trade rules.”

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