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NHS England has published its response to its consultation on the new commissioning regime. While it has listened, it hasn’t exactly taken action.

Despite warnings from NHS providers, independent providers and not-for-profit community interest companies, the regulator is pushing ahead with its plans on how providers can appeal against a contract award if it feels it is unfair.

The new provider selection regime substantially weakens the requirements on commissioners to tender for NHS services, instead allowing them to roll over current contracts or appoint the most “suitable provider” based on criteria such as quality, collaboration and social value.

Providers that feel a contract was unfairly awarded under this new process can make “representations” to the very decision making body that awarded the contract in the first place, or instead seek judicial review.

Despite a “general” consensus in consultation responses that judicial review was an inappropriate way to manage appeals, NHSE said it will not set up a third-party appeal process as this “fetters” the new freedom commissioners will be given through this new regime and the new health legislation making its way through Parliament.

The Dark side of recruitment

The search for NHS England’s new chief commercial officer is gathering pace as Skipton House looks to replace Emily Lawson, who has moved over to No.10 to run its delivery unit.

The application window closes on Wednesday and the external recruiters will hold first round interviews for prospective candidates next week. The shortlist will be invited to the government’s Commercial Assessment and Development centre on 10 September (to be scrutinised by the steely blue gaze of stock photo models, if the brochure is anything to go by).

Final interviews will be held in the week of 27 September. All being well, a new CCO should be in post soon after. In the meantime, NHSE has appointed an interim CCO — Blake Dark, its commercial medicines director and “chief negotiator with the pharmaceutical industry”, has stepped into the role.

Of course, last time this job was advertised, all did not go smoothly. Dr Lawson was in the job for 19 months, first as an interim from November 2019 then permanently from February 2020. After it took 14 months to finally settle on Dr Lawson as the substantive COO, her incumbency lasted not much longer than the time it took to fill the post. NHSE will be eager to see that that does not repeat.