Health secretary Andrew Lansley appears to have made a change in the rhetoric of the health reforms to further quell concerns over competition in the NHS.
Giving evidence to the Commons health committee on Tuesday, Mr Lansley referred to “any qualified provider” instead of “any willing provider” - the government’s policy to open up the provision of NHS services to competition.
The move is not a substantial change but clarifies that any provider who will offer NHS funded healthcare must be licensed by the Care Quality Commission.
Mr Lansley said: “Wherever the NHS pound goes, scrutiny will follow”.
The coalition’s health ministers have also recently begun referring to the reforms as “modernisation”.
This month the government amended the wording of the Health Bill to rule out competition between providers on price. Mr Lansley told the committee: “We are talking about a social market not a free market, regulated prices not price competition.”
He said without price competition it was up to the economic regulator Monitor to make sure efficiency and not just quality were improved.
Mr Lansley also sought to clarify that commissioning consortia would not hold on to, or share with private companies, savings from commissioning budgets. He said only a consortium’s “management allowance” and the proposed quality premium could be shared with the private sector through commissioning support arrangements.
“None of that money comes out of the money for commissioning services,” he said.
He challenged “erroneous” reports that the reforms where giving £80bn of commissioning budget to GPs. He said that once areas like specialised services, primary medical services and dentistry had been accounted for consortia would have responsibility for £60bn of commissioning.