Andy Burnham’s preferred bidder pledge questioned
Questions have been raised over the implications for competition and world class commissioning of health secretary Andy Burnham’s statement that the NHS is the “preferred provider” of services.
Previous Department of Health policy had been that “any willing provider” should be considered when commissioning services.
The NHS is our preferred provider. But it is the important job of the commissioner to test whether these services provide best value and real quality
But in a speech last week at the King’s Fund, in which Mr Burnham stressed the importance of raising quality, he said: “The NHS is our preferred provider. But it is the important job of the commissioner to test whether these services provide best value and real quality.
“Where a provider is not delivering quality - and the new accountability information will more readily demonstrate that - we will set out a clearer process that will provide an opportunity for existing providers to improve before opening up to new potential providers.”
Answering questions after his speech, he said NHS providers should be given at least one opportunity to improve before commissioners went out to tender for an alternative provider.
Unison senior national officer for health Mike Jackson told HSJ the speech was significant: “I think now there’s clarity that the NHS is the preferred provider and there ought to be co-operation before competition.”
A DH spokeswoman said: “The health secretary signalled the need to clarify policy and guidance to ensure that whilst putting quality of the heart of everything we do in the NHS, staff were treated fairly by being given an opportunity to improve performance and services before commissioners considered engaging with alternative providers.”