NHS competition rules to be rewritten

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New rules on competition for NHS services in England will be rewritten, Health Minister Norman Lamb has told the House of Commons.

Mr Lamb's comments come in the wake of fears that the current regulations could force the privatisation of services, regardless of local wishes or cost benefits.

Responding to an urgent question from Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham on 5 March 2013, Mr Lamb said: "I recognise that the wording of the regulations has inadvertently created confusion and generated significant concerns about their effect.

"The regulations must be in line with the assurances given to this house during the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill."

Labour's spokesman, Mr Burnham, however said the government's true purpose was to privatise the NHS.

"[The government] is in this mess because doctors will decide mantra was always a fig leaf for their true ideological purpose of driving competition and privatisation into the heart of the NHS," Mr Burnham said

Conservative chairman of the Health Committee, Stephen Dorrell, attacked Labour for bringing forward the urgent questions saying "the government is pursuing precisely the same policy in terms of competition for the provision of NHS services as its predecessor".

He added: "That demonstrates that the cloud of rhetoric that surrounded the passage of the Health and Social Care Act was so much hot air."

Labour MP Helen Jones returned fire for the opposition saying the former health secretary Andrew Lansley had insisted that the regulations did not introduce compulsory competitive tendering into the NHS, but that the minister was saying the government would revise them in case they do.

She said: "Isn't it the case that the government actually hasn't got a clue about what it's doing, and can he tell us to disprove that, exactly what changes he is going to make to the regulations, or is it just going to be like the pause in the bill, where it then carried on regardless?"

Mr Lamb defended his coalition colleague saying that Mr Lansley was absolutely correct in stating that the regulations did not introduce compulsory competitive tendering.

He said: "The reason that we are amending these regulations is because there was legitimate and understandable concern about the impact of some of the provisions. We will be making that clear so the policy intent of the Health and Social Care Act is implemented faithfully in these regulations."

The amended regulations are expected to be published "within days".

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