Altering the tariff to a maximum price system should result in “very positive” outcomes for both the NHS and the taxpayer, according to the NHS Alliance.

The NHS operating framework for 2010-11, published yesterday, includes a proposal to replace the fixed national tariff with maximum prices as a lever for commissioners to get better value from secondary care.

NHS Alliance chair Michael Dixon said: “We are very pleased with this decision.

“We have been long campaigning for payment by results to be regarded as maximum price rather than absolute price, as a means to deliver savings and benefit patients and taxpayers,” he said.

Dr Dixon added: “The outcomes of a change in tariff could be very positive indeed. In those areas where PbR has been thought to inflate costs, some trusts will be able to offer considerably under tariff and thus benefit patients and the taxpayer. And in any areas where an acute trust and other providers are able to undercut PbR by a significant margin, this will again carry benefits to patients and the taxpayer.”

Dr Dixon also said the alliance welcomed the introduction of the right for PCTs to withhold a proportion of contract payments up to 10 per cent over time if providers do not met agreed patient satisfaction goals.

He said: “PCTs will be able to put the patient first and also have a leverage to encourage providers to do their utmost to deliver the best service they can according to patients’ expectations.”