By Stuart Gidden
Price competition in the NHS should be axed from the bill in favour of a list of preferred providers, said the doctors' union yesterday (17 February 2011).
At a meeting of the British Medical Association's GP's Committee (GPC), members expressed concerns about the 'mixed messages' from government over price competition and whether or not this would be encouraged by the introduction of a maximum tariff.
Expressing fears that patient care would be damaged, GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said: 'This is a very important issue for society, and certainly for GPs. The unedifying sight of people undercutting each other, and the effect that will have on the health service, is very scary. This motion is intended to make that clear.'
The committee also voted for changes that would allow GP commissioning consortia to choose from a list of licensed providers where local services were put out to tender.
Dr Buckman insisted that this amendment would not stop the government's commitment to allow 'any willing provider' to offer services, but to make it clear that GPs had preferred providers in their localities.
'If we are to get the bill amended, it will not be in breach of competition law to be able to select a group of providers with whom you generally do business,' he said.
The committee also expressed concerns about the 'draconian powers' of both the national NHS Commissioning Board and the independent regulator Monitor, such as powers of search and arrest, and accessing GPs' computer files.
'We believe that the national Commissioning Board could make it very difficult for consortia to work in a way that reflects local independence,' said Dr Richard Vautrey, Deputy Chair of the GPC.
The GPC meeting also included a discussion of health inequalities and issues of fairness with Sir Michael Marmot, author of last year's Fair Society, Healthy Lives report, which found the gap between rich and poor to be a major cause of premature deaths in England.
Dr Vautrey, said that, whatever the outcome of the Health Bill, the preservation of fairness 'must be a fundamental thing to preserve. We would let patients down otherwise.'
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"I am not a GP but am horrified at what all these changes will do to the NHS and I urge GPs to be more active in their condemnation of these untried changes" – Dorothy Brown, London