Primary care providers under contract with the NHS Commissioning Board (NHS CB) should be exempt from having to hold a licence from economic regulator Monitor.
Under DH recommendations for Monitor licensing, GPs will not need to hold a licence but would be expected to meet "similar requirements" to those with licences.
Oversight that such requirements are met by GPs is expected to come from the NHS CB.
"The NHS Commissioning Board is well placed to enforce standards equivalent to those included in Monitor's standard licence conditions [to GPs] or, in the case of out-of-hours services, to arrange for CCGs to enforce those standards," said the guidance.
According to the DH document Protecting and promoting patients' interests – licensing providers of NHS services: A consultation on proposals the NHS CB will be under obligation to protect patient choice, prevent anti-competitive conduct and enable integration
"[The NHS CB will] need to ensure that contracts with providers of the services it is responsible for commissioning include provisions that allow it to meet those obligations," said the document.
Monitor will, however, expect the NHS CB to act on any of its recommendations made as a result of any alleged failures by GPs to meet requirements.
During the next Parliament, the government is expected to carry out a full review of how the Monitor licensing regime is operating, in which it has warned those providers who were initially exempt could then be brought within the scope of licensing.