Make EU procurement rules more flexible, says NHS managers group

6 May 2011
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6 May 2011 | Lindsay Clark

The NHS Confederation has called for EU public sector procurement rules to be simplified.

In a submission to the European Commission's consultation on how the EU public procurement law should be amended which closed last month, the independent body that represents NHS service providers said procurement managers and commissioners often saw the rules as inflexible, complex and onerous. They should be amended to allow for greater negotiation with bidders during the selection and award process, it said.

Elisabetta Zanon, director of the NHS Confederation’s European office, said that for many NHS organisations, the current procurement process was considered too bureaucratic and lengthy when it is applied to smaller contracts: “In the current climate, these rules need to be driving savings and innovation, not lumbering organisations with additional cost and paperwork.

“Reviewing these rules now is particularly pertinent given the government’s aims to increase competition in the NHS and transform how commissioning is carried out. Giving patients greater choice about how and where they receive treatment will mean more providers bidding for services. It will be essential to have clear and concise rules in place about how newly established GP commissioners will be expected to award contracts,” she said.

The NHS Confederation has called for a significant increase of the threshold at which organisations are obliged to follow EU rules. The current level applies to many relatively small contracts, putting them through the same onerous tendering processes as ones worth many millions, the organisation said.

Procurement is of increasing importance in the NHS because it is seen as a driver of efficiency and competition, the Confederation added.

The consultation is set to feed into EU proposals to revise the existing regulations to be published this summer.

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