A director of one of England’s leading private sector health care providers has expressed doubts over the government’s “any qualified provider” policy, describing it as “bastardised”.

Dr Mark Hunt, managing director for healthcare of Care UK, said today that he felt like a “jilted bride” as a result of changes made to the Health and Social Care Bill.

He told a session at the NHS Confederation’s annual conference: “The NHS and privatisation were going down the aisle, we were about to get married, and now I’m at the altar on my own.”

Care UK is a major private sector provider of NHS services, including around 35 per cent of independent sector treatment centres.

Dr Hunt then described AQP as a “permit to play” for independent providers, adding “it’s obviously bastardised”. He said in some cases providers had to be authorised several times to provide similar services within a single strategic health authority area. “It would be nice if it were one permit nationally,” he said.

Speaking to HSJ after the session, Dr Hunt also expressed concern that under the amended Health and Social Care Bill AQP will be rolled out only in selected areas of community services, as those services are particularly difficult to draw up whole-pathway tariffs for.

Stephen Dunn, director of strategy for the East of England SHA  also questioned whether AQP would help generate savings under the quality, innovation, productivity and prevention (QIPP) agenda. He said: “There’s a concern that we’ll be creating lots of small markets with high transaction costs, with no real opportunity to deliver the game changing transformations needed to deliver QIPP.”