Health watchdog to regulate procurement

20 January 2011

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20 January 2011 | Lindsay Clark

The UK government is set to give a watchdog powers to regulate health procurement as part of its plans to overhaul the NHS.

Under the Health and Social Care Bill, which was put before Parliament yesterday, Monitor - the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts - will have powers to investigate complaints against commissioning boards of consortia that fail to comply with procurement rules. It will also be able to insist that a service is put out to tender.

The move follows plans to put GPs in charge of spending on primary healthcare. Doctors will be able to form consortia which will control commissioning in their area.

The Bill described regulations that “may impose requirements on the NHS Commissioning Board and commissioning consortia for the purpose of securing that… they adhere to good practice in relation to procurement”.

It said commissioning groups must “promote competition in the provision of health care services” and that they may “impose requirements relating to competitive tendering for the provision of services and the management of conflicts between the interests involved”.

The government’s policy has provoked criticism from procurement professionals. Buyers have argued that GPs will not have sufficient training or experience to avoid common pitfalls in the procurement process, citing risk management, supplier relationship management and EU law as areas of expertise where GPs may be lacking.

“The reality is… that medical professionals are no more qualified in procurement than we are in medicine,” said one buyer, posting on the SM blog last year.

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