The NHS opens up to increased competition


From today the NHS is likely to significantly increase the number of contracts it advertises for external competition, as it will now be required to comply with the general EU procurement regime rather than relying on a temporary exemption for healthcare services.

For the first time, the NHS will be under a statutory obligation to advertise their healthcare services contracts.

This is a significant change to the UK healthcare landscape, and as many readers of The CLIP Board provide services to the NHS, we thought this a development worth bringing to your attention.

What happens after 18 April 2016?

The NHS’s procurement of healthcare services has, until today, been regulated by the Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition Regulations (No. 2) 2013.

From 18 April 2016, contracts for healthcare services above €750,000 (£589,148) must be awarded in line with the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 using the “light touch regime” for social services.

This “light touch regime” requires:

  • publication of a contract notice in the OJEU, and
  • an award procedure which complies with the EU principles of non-discrimination and equal treatment.
What does this mean?

From today we anticipate that more NHS contracts will be put out to tender than before and NHS commissioners should reflect carefully on the legal risks of not competitively procuring health services. This change presents increased opportunities for private players and healthcare charities to win business with the NHS and public health services.

However, this change is likely be accompanied by increasing political controversy, given the contentious debate around the healthcare procurement aspects of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

The government has published a guidance note on the new procurement regime and we are very happy to discuss these changes in greater detail with clients.

Noel Watson-Doig