Procurement update - how will the abolition of Part B services affect commissioners?

As statutory public bodies, CCGs will be subject to public procurement law when commissioning services. At present, clinical services fall into a category known as Part B services, which means that not all of the formal procurement rules have to be followed when awarding those contracts.

In December 2011 the European Commission published its proposals to reform procurement law. Among the changes is a proposal to abolish Part B services so that there is no longer a lighter procurement regime for those services. So what will this mean for commissioners of clinical services?

Luckily for commissioners it is proposed that health services will still fall within a lighter regime (albeit a new one) and will not become subject to the full procurement rules. The proposal is for a lighter regime to apply to 'social services' in the future. This includes social health and education services.

Under the proposed new lighter regime there will be a higher threshold than at present for the procurement rules to apply to health services. It is currently £173,934. The proposal is that a threshold value of EUR 500,000 (which is over £400,000) will apply to 'social services' instead. This means that only those clinical services contracts with a value exceeding the new higher threshold will be subject to the procurement rules. Even where this is the case the only rules applying under this lighter regime will be the requirement to comply with the basic EU treaty principles of equal treatment and transparency. This of course may well mean that some form of tendering is still appropriate.

Thus the proposals are actually good news for commissioners as the procurement burden in relation to clinical services should be reduced. However it is important to bear in mind two key points. Firstly these are currently just proposals so this could all change. Secondly commissioners should remember that in addition to procurement law they are bound by NHS procurement policy rules. These at least encourage procurement of clinical services even where there is no legal obligation to comply with the full procurement law processes. 

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