"NHS as preferred provider" policy neutered
26 March 2010
Guidance for NHS Commissioners
Yesterday the Department of Health published guidance for NHS commissioners which make clear that they should not favour or discriminate against providers from any one sector, thereby effectively neutering the "NHS as preferred provider" policy that Health Secretary Andy Burnham has been pursuing. ACEVO have congratulated the Government for listening to third sector concerns, a shift that comes after months of campaigning from ACEVO
- The revised Principles and Rules for Cooperation and Competition contain no references to preferred provider. Principle 2 of 10 is that "Commissioning and procurement must be transparent and non-discriminatory".
- The PCT Procurement Guide makes clear that: "the commissioning process, including any form of procurement, should be non-discriminatory and transparent at all times, including neither favouring nor excluding any particular provider" ; "the procurement process should not give an advantage to any sector (public, private, third sector/social enterprise)" ; and PCTs are required to "give all providers fair and equal opportunity to bid". It also includes a new annex on provider engagement, and states that "the NHS will continue to remove potential barriers to the participation of non-NHS providers".
- Commercial Skills for the NHS makes clear that "[for existing providers of services] the two formal opportunities to improve performance before contract termination will also apply to independent and third sector providers. Where services are tendered ... competition will be fair, open and non-discriminatory".
Stephen Bubb, CEO of ACEVO, said: "this guidance sends out a totally clear message to NHS commissioners: do not treat the NHS as preferred provider; but rather treat all sectors equally. I am pleased that this distraction is now over, and that we can concentrate on getting the best services for NHS patients."