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‘Backdoor privatisation’ u-turn

7 March 2013

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Controversial Section 75 regulations have been revoked by the government following a backlash from health leaders. 
Section 75 of the Health and Social Care act will be withdrawn and amended, but leaders have warned changes should happen “quickly”, as the legislation will come into force in a matter of weeks. 
Earlier this week The Commissioning Review reported critics believe the legislation will promote private providers by forcing CCGs to consider them on the same basis as NHS providers. 
The guidelines said CCGs must “treat providers equally and in a non-discriminatory way… including by not treating a provider… more favourably than any other provider, in particular on the basis of ownership.” 
Calls for ‘freedom’ 
“It is essential that we have the clarity we need so that where it is in patients’ best interests CCGs are able to deliver co-operation and integration,” said Michael Dixon, (pictured) interim president of NHS Clinical Commissioners (NHSCC). 
Dr Dixon congratulated the government for listening to “those who will be leading the commissioning of healthcare,” but added the new draft should give clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) sufficient freedom. 
“We have consistently argued that clinical commissioners must be provided with the freedom to use the full range of procurement tools,” he said. 
Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) chair Dr Clare Gerada also urged the government to give GP commissioners the freedom to make decisions. 
Dr Gerada said: “We are delighted – and relieved – that the Government has listened to us and responded so quickly and positively.
“We now urge the Government to work with us to develop an acceptable set of replacement regulations that will ensure GP commissioners have the freedom to make decisions in the best interests of our patients and in line with the values that have underpinned the NHS for the past 65 years.”
Dr Peter Carter, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) chief executive said he is “pleased” the “worrying regulations” will be amended. 
He said: “It is vital that clinical commissioning croups feel confident in government assurances that they will be allowed to make the best decisions about delivering quality care, without being forced into expensive and time consuming tendering processes.”
British Medical Association (BMA) council chair Mark Porter said: “It will be vital to have an absolute reassurance that commissioners really will be allowed to make the best decisions about the use of competition in providing high-quality services for their local populations.
“Commissioners must not be forced into tendering services inappropriately, wasting precious NHS time and money.’
Late last week RCGP wrote a letter to health minister Lord Earl Howe, stating that the regulations need “significant changes”. 
In the letter, RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada said: “It is clear to us that, as they currently stand, the regulations will be interpreted by CCGs as requiring services to be put out to competition.” 
Other medical bodies including the BMA and RCN also opposed the changes.  
A DH spokesman said: “We recognise there are concerns about the precise wording of the regulations.
“We take this very seriously and we want there to be no doubt about what these regulations do. That is why we are acting quickly to make them clearer – we intend to lay revised regulations in the next few days.”