Monitor sets out a new approach to regulation of the healthcare sector with the publication of its NHS provider licence. The licence will be issued to foundation trusts and will be effective from 1 April 2013. Other providers, such as those in the private sector and charities, will need to hold a licence from April 2014 onwards, unless exempted by regulations.

The licence sets out the obligations providers of NHS-funded services are required to meet so that Monitor can fulfil its statutory duties, including its main duty which is to protect and promote patients’ interests by promoting provision of healthcare services which is economic, efficient and effective, and maintains or improves the quality of the services.

The licence is central to Monitor’s role as sector regulator under the Health and Social Care Act 2012. It contains conditions that will help Monitor set prices for NHS-funded care, enable integrated care, prevent anti-competitive behaviour which is against the interests of patients, and support commissioners in maintaining service continuity where providers run into difficulties. There are also specific conditions which allow Monitor to continue to regulate the way foundation trusts are governed.

The licence follows Monitor’s extensive consultation and engagement with stakeholders during 2012 and the much-discussed "fair playing field review", which assessed whether aspects of the proposed licence terms might have an unfair impact on some providers. A summary of consultation feedback and the final licence conditions is available here.

Monitor is holding four regional events in London, Leeds and Birmingham to update NHS providers and commissioner on the preparations for the new regulatory system. These will cover both the terms of the NHS provider licence and how Monitor intends to enforce the licence conditions.