Shadow health secretary John Healey has written to Andrew Lansley asking for clarity on price competition.

Referring to recent letters to senior managers from NHS chief executive David Nicholson and deputy chief executive David Flory stressing there will be no competition on price, Mr Healey said: “Given the statements from your senior officials contradict your own views and legislation, you have a duty to make clear your intentions for the future market you are creating.

“If in the light of the chorus of criticism you have changed your mind on this matter, then clearly a change to the legislation is required.

“If, on the other hand, you intend to pursue this price competition as a key part of your plan to turn the NHS into a genuine market then I suggest you inform your officials.”

He cited a speech the secretary of state had made to the NHS Confederation in 2005 where he referred to budget-holding GPs “negotiating offers on quality and price” and added: “Turning the NHS into a privatised utility market seems to have been your long-standing ambition.”

The shadow health secretary pointed to the clause in the Health and Social Care Bill that says the tariff is only the “maximum” and said “none of these plans were in your manifesto or coalition agreement, but neither was the massive upheaval of the whole system.”

The letter, which can be read here, was sent on Tuesday 22 February.

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