BMA Press Release 18th April 13

Thursday, 18 April, 2013Controversial competition regulations should be withdrawn and replaced, says BMA ahead of crucial House of Lords debate
Doctors leaders have today (Thursday, 18 April) called for controversial competition rules to be withdrawn and replaced ahead of a crucial House of Lords debate next week1.
In a new briefing paper sent to peers ahead of the debate, the BMA calls for the withdrawal of the regulations2 that detail how aspects of patient choice and competition operate under the Health and Social Care Act in England.  
They should be replaced with new regulations that unambiguously reflect previous Government assurances that commissioners will not be forced to use competition when making their commissioning decisions.  The BMA is pressing for this principle to be explicitly stated in the regulations.
The BMA has long argued that mandatory competition for all services risks fragmentation of services and creates unnecessary transaction costs, making it harder for the NHS in England to deliver high quality, cost-effective and integrated care to patients.
Regulations, which were first laid before Parliament in February 2013, set out how competition and patient choice would work under the Health and Social Care Act.  They were intended to ensure good procurement practice, but have continued to prompt widespread concern and uncertainty about the apparent requirement for competitive tendering for most health services.  
Dr Mark Porter, Chair of BMA Council, said:
“The absence of expected guidance on how the competition regulations would operate in practice, and the lack of satisfactory guarantees in these regulations, has created great uncertainty and anxiety for clinicians and patients.
“Only explicit wording in the regulations would allow patients, doctors and commissioners to be absolutely certain that clinicians will have the freedom to act in the way they consider to be in the best interests of patients.”
Dr Laurence Buckman Chair of the BMA’s GP Committee said:
“GP commissioners now have responsibility for making critical decisions about how best to provide services to patients in their locality.  
“Commissioners could be put in the position of facing costly tendering processes and possible legal challenges from unsuccessful bidders because of ambiguous rules. That is why GPs want the regulations withdrawn.”
Ends
Notes to Editors
1.   On Wednesday 24 April 2013, the House of Lords will debate the following ‘fatal’ motion secured by Lord Hunt of King’s Heath: ‘National Health Service (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) (No. 2) Regulations 2013 – Motion to Annul’
2.  Details of the regulations are available here:
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2013/500/contents/made
The BMA’s briefing paper is available here.
http://bma.org.uk/working-for-change/shaping-healthcare/competition-and-choice/choice-and-competition/section-75-briefing
For further information please contact:

Paul Gadsby
Senior Media Officer

Communications Directorate
Media Office
British Medical Association
E: pgadsby@bma.org.uk
BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JP