Finally there is certainty around the status of the NHS (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) (No 2) Regulations 2013. As readers will be aware Lord Hunt, Labour's lead on health in the House of Lords, proposed a motion on 24 April to annul the regulations under Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The vote was won by the government by a majority of 254 to 146 – coalition peers were united in opposing the ‘fatal motion’. You can view a breakdown of votes here.
So what does this mean for commissioners? It means that the NHS (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) (No 2) Regulations 2013 will govern how CCGs and NHS England commission services in the NHS. The Regulations state – by implication - that commissioners will be expected to advertise contracts where there is more that one provider capable of providing the services.. Please see earlier blogs dated 22 February, 14 and 23 March for more information.
However, Ministers have promised detailed guidance for commissioners on Monitor’s general approach to using their enforcement powers under the Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition Regulations, and on guidance on how to comply with these regulations. This guidance will, we are told, provide clarity on the extent of flexibility commissioners have, particularly when designing a service and when identifying the provider best placed to provide the service.
Monitor will be consulting on this guidance and it will be important for commissioners to respond to this consultation, particularly if the guidance is not as clear as promised. Against this background it is also important that commissioners develop robust procurement strategies that incorporate the core objectives set out in the regulations, in particular to demonstrate that commissioning decisions secure service users needs, improve quality and improve efficiency.