Monitor launches first NHS procurement investigation

Adam Leach is a freelance business journalist
7 June 2013

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NHS regulator Monitor is investigating NHS England - and its predecessor, the North of England Specialised Commissioning Group in Yorkshire and Humber‎ - following a complaint about radiosurgery procurement.

The investigation was launched this week following an official complaint from Thornbury Radiosurgery Centre, which is owned by BMI Healthcare.

Monitor will look into potential breaches of conduct and procurement practices both before and after 1 April 2013, when regulations relating to procurement and competition within the Health and Social Care Act 2012 were amended in Parliament. It will assess whether the conduct of the commissioning group, now part of NHS England, was consistent with the Principles and Rules for Co-operation and Competition, which govern the commissioning and provision of NHS services.

In a statement, BMI Healthcare explained the complaint was lodged over concerns that the procurement process had placed patient care in jeopardy. A spokesman for the company said: “Thornbury Radiosurgery Centre made the complaint because we believe that patient care and choice has been compromised by purchasing decision taken by NHS England and its predecessor body North of England Specialised Commissioning Group in Yorkshire and Humber."

Specific details of the complaint have not been disclosed.

In a statement a spokeswoman for NHS England said: “We will be working closely with Monitor to provide them with all the information they need to help them with their investigation.”

Monitor, which expects to publish an update on how the investigation is progressing in August, explained due to the investigation being at an early stage it yet to reach a view whether there has been a breach of the regulations.

In April, section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 was amended to give commissioners more flexibility as to when they must conduct a fully competitive tendering process. Commenting on its guidance, Monitor’s chief executive Dr David Bennett said: “The guidance makes it clear that the regulations do not force commissioners to go out to tender for every service, but equally commissioners should not simply roll-over existing contracts without first asking how good the service is, and whether it could be improved to give patients a better deal.”

The amended regulations require NHS bodies charged with commissioning services “do not engage in anti-competitive behaviour which is against the interests of people who use such services”.

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