The new DH draft requirements for commissioners make the maintenance of a ‘level playing field’ for competing providers from all sectors mandatory.
Published for consultation, Securing best value for NHS patients proposes legal requirements that CCGs must observe “choice and competition” and must make their tendering processes and decisions transparent.
Commissioners would be banned from “preventing, restricting or distorting competition” unless it was “indispensable” to achieving patient benefit.
The document states that the reason for making this competitive framework statutory is that CCG autonomy will preclude its enforcement within the NHS: only making it a legal requirement will ensure compliance.
The DH says the “most important task” of CCGs is to “secure best value from limited resources”. It wants commissioners to “have flexibility”, but needs to ensure that they “carry out an objective assessment of different options”.
The draft requirements describe Monitor’s new role as the enforcer of these regulations. The watchdog will not be involved in every tender process, but rather “investigate possible breaches of the regulations”.
The DH intends to prohibit commissioners from treating independent or voluntary sector providers “less favourably” than public sector providers.
To ensure transparency, commissioners must “maintain appropriate records” showing how they have reached their decisions.
Protection of patient choice (as defined by the NHS Constitution) is also proposed as a mandatory principle for CCGs.
Finally, the document states that where a conflict of interests arises, it must be managed “effectively and transparently” by the commissioner.
The consultation will end on 26 October 2012.