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DH confirms stance on price competition

 The government has made an amendment to its Health and Social Care Bill which rules out the ability for health services providers to compete on price.

The amendment, laid by health minister Simon Burns today removes the references to the tariff being the “maximum” price, but retains the references to Monitor being able to “specify different prices” for different providers, but only on a case-by-case basis.

The BMA has welcomed the change as it will prevent differential pricing between NHS and private providers.

A statement from the Department of Health said: “We have always opposed the suggestion that private sector providers should be paid any more than their NHS equivalents for doing the same work. The amendment would allow Monitor to vary the tariff to reflect unavoidable cost differences, such as geographical variations in wages and the cost of land.”

Health secretary Andrew Lansley (pictured) added: “Our modernisation plans have always been about competition on quality, not on price. We want the tariff to be a nationally regulated price, not a starting point for price competition. These amendments will put our intentions beyond doubt…and put an end to the scaremongering we have seen.”

A recent Ipsos MORI survey revealed that the majority of BMA members believe increased competition in the NHS will lead to a fragmentation of services and a reduction in the quality of care.

In response to the latest changes to the Bill, Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA, said: “Price competition has been linked with lower quality and was of huge concern to the BMA and many others. We welcome the fact that the Health Secretary has not only listened to doctors’ views, but also acted on them.

“There is of course still a long way to go to address all the concerns doctors have about the Bill, such as Monitor’s powers to enforce competition. We will continue to press for further improvements and hope the government will continue to listen.”

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