HSJ’s pick of the day’s must read stories and debate

Hunt (not that one) hits out at DH

A decision on next year’s tariff is still at least a month away, and Westminster is still arguing about how the tariff should be decided.

As HSJ reported on Monday, Labour is this week due to mount a challenge in the House of Lords to the Department of Health’s plans to raise the bar that provider objections must clear in order to trigger arbitration over NHS prices.

In the wake of last year’s unprecedented provider revolt over prices, the department wants to raise the proportion of providers that must object from 51 per cent to 66 per cent.

To do this means changing secondary legislation. Labour health spokesman Lord Hunt has tabled an amendment stating that the changes are “fundamentally unfair” because they would mean that “even if every NHS provider objected” to proposals, “the arbitration mechanism cannot be triggered”. NHS trusts and foundation trust make up 62 per cent of licenced providers, although they provide 96 per cent of services.

Lord Hunt isn’t the only peer concerned about the changes. The Lords secondary legislation scrutiny committee has noted that the DH only consulted on the proposals for four weeks, and these were during the summer holidays.

That said, it is hard to see that a longer consultation would have made much difference. Eighty-two per cent of those that did respond objected to the threshold being raised. The DH – without irony – decided to go ahead and raise it anyway.

London CCGs get more consultancy bunse

More than half of the requests from CCGs for management consultancy contracts worth more than £50,000 have come from London, HSJ revealed on Monday.

Since June, CCGs and providers have had to seek permission for the contracts, as part of government controls to bring down spending. Commissioners must go cap in hand to NHS England, while providers head to Monitor and the TDA.

According to data obtained by HSJ, through to 23 October there had been 66 requests to NHS England, with 36 coming from the capital – and Central London CCG alone accounts for 10 – for contracts worth a total of £8.5m.

The same restrictions on consultancy spending apply to providers, but Monitor and the TDA did not release the data after an FOI request, saying the information would be published in future. We’ll hold them, or NHS Improvement, to that promise.

Many of the big consultancy firms are based in London, but an industry figure told us this was unlikely to be the reason for CCGs in the big smoke making so many requests compared to their peers.

HSJ asked NHS England if the controls were having the desired effect and bringing down spending, but it failed to respond to the question. Perhaps a consultancy firm could carry out a review?