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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
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.