The end of a Parliamentary session is always a slightly fraught time as the Government of the day seeks to wrap up proceedings on the Bills in progress. So late night sitting, fierce debates and short tempers are the order of the day. This year has been no exception.
An issue with which I have been concerned is the extent of the requirement to use competitive tendering in the NHS in the future. Two years ago when I chaired a Committee looking into the regulatory burdens preventing the growth of charities and voluntary groups and we produced its report, entitled “Unshackling Good Neighbours” we found that the attitude of commissioners had a significant impact on the growth prospects of the voluntary sector
Too often commissioners were seen to be too ready to fall back on the “tried and trusted” and insufficiently prepared to try the new approaches often espoused by Charities and voluntary groups. The barriers used to shut out calling for a large number of Groups to tender, making tender documents over lengthy and complex, making monitoring procedures over elaborate and changing those procedures mid contract.
Whatever one’s view of the NHS we all know it face very considerable challenges – not least demographic from the rising health care needs of an ageing population and technological from the new and expensive procedures which help extend our life expectancy.
New approaches will undoubtedly be needed if we are to meet these challenges – the “familiar” on its own will not be enough.
So I was very pleased that the new Regulations while quite properly placing what was best for the patient as the key determinant nevertheless focussed on the role of competition and innovation in future tendering.