Regulations to govern procurement, patient choice and competition published

New regulations governing the commissioning of health services will come into force on 1 April 2013. The NHS (Procurement Patient Choice and Competition) Regulations 2013 were published on 13 February 2013. These regulations set out how the NHS Commissioning Board and clinicial commissioning groups commission healthcare services from the NHS and private sector providers.

From April 2013 commissioners procuring NHS healthcare services will be required to adopt good procurement practice and avoid anti-competitive behaviour whilst having regard to securing the needs of patients who use the services and improving quality and efficiency.

The regulations set out the criteria for the advertising and award of contracts avoiding conflicts of interest anti-competitive behaviour and the qualification of providers and the power of the health regulator Monitor to investigate and take enforcement action in relation to breaches. Commissioners are also required to act in a transparent and proportionate way and treat providers equally and in a non-discriminatory way.

The regulations also set out the conditions for the award of a new contract without a competition ? this can only occur where the commissioner is satisfied that the services could only be provided by one provider. Similarly the regulations provide that competition between providers should be used to support patient choice.

Interestingly the regulations require commissioners to maintain and publish details of a website that will advertise opportunities for providers to tender for health care services. New contracts must be notified by a contract notice. The contract notice must include a description of the services to be provided and the criteria against which any bids will be evaluated.

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