Andy Burnham believes repealing the Health Act 2012 would insulate the NHS from the effect of EU procurement and competition law, he has told HSJ.

The shadow health secretary spoke to HSJ yesterday. It followed a major speech by party leader Ed Miliband on the NHS on Monday in which he said a Labour government would make savings in the service by removing the effect of competition rules.

Mr Burnham said: “We’re clear that the [Health and Social Care] Act brings the NHS fully into the glare of EU procurement and competition law by saying that services have to be tendered.”

He said commissioners were currently “being forced to tender services… That’s the reality.”

Mr Burnham said under the act, “private healthcare companies are able to challenge the commissioning decisions of GPs… both formally and informally”. He said this was “destabilising” for commissioners.

Mr Burnham also said NHS providers should be able to merge uninhibited by competition regulation.

Citing the example of Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals and Poole Hospital foundation trusts, whose plan to merge was blocked by the Competition Commission in October, he said they “shouldn’t have had had any obstacles thrown in their way. If they wanted to make some sensible changes to the way they provide services across the two hospitals, nothing should have stopped that”.

Mr Burnham also spoke about Labour’s plan to introduce “rights” for patients to get quick GP appointments, which Mr Miliband announced. Mr Burnham said the move was “crucial” because “if we’re not careful the public might lose trust in general practice”.

He said practices could be required to provide the appointment commitments through the GP contract, potentially in the quality and outcomes framework, under which practices are paid by performance. He said: “We would look at what is the most effective way of doing it.”