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Clarity on NHS competition is urgently needed to protect patient care

Author:The Patients Association
Date Added:20 July 2012

A Department of Health Consultation has raised new doubts over Government plans for scrutiny of NHS competition.

Chief Executive of The Patients Association, Katherine Murphy, has today written to Andrew Lansley asking for clarification on whether or not competition law will be applicable to the NHS or alternative providers.


The letter also points out seemingly contradictory accounts of the role of NHS regulator, Monitor.

In one section we are told that “Monitor will therefore be able to take action against anti-competitive behaviour that acts against patients’ interests…Monitor will do this through its licensing powers and, where relevant, by applying Competition Law.” Yet in the next paragraph it says, “Neither competition law nor the licence will apply to commissioners. Instead, the rules for commissioners will be set out in regulations made by the Secretary of State. These regulations will be sector-specific and enforceable by Monitor, rather than by the courts.”


The Patients Association believes that where competition is introduced in the NHS it should be focused on the outcomes for patients and delivering the highest standard of care.

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of The Patients Association, said


"During debates on the Government’s Health and Social Care Bill assurances were given that competition law would not apply to the NHS. This consultation document is contradictory about whether Monitor will or will not to be able to apply or enforce competition law.


The role of Monitor and indeed the regulation of competition in the NHS matters to patients. Competition does not in itself drive up standards of care, but when there is a fair and proper framework it can work in the best interests of patients and enable meaningful choice.


I have today written to the Health Secretary to ask for a clearer explanation of whether or not competition law applies to the NHS and clarity over proposals for Monitor’s role in safeguarding patients interest’s within that context.”



-       The Government’s consultation ‘Sector regulation: an update on plans for consultation and implementation’ can be found here here (please note pages 16 and 17 refer to the role of Monitor).

-       The Patients Association is a campaigning charity, listening to patients and speaking up for change. It has been working for nearly 50 years to make sure that the patient voice is heard and listened to by policy makers.

-       For further information please contact the Patients Association on 02084239111

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