Department of Health guidance outlines future role of charities and private sector in NHS

It lists eight service areas government believes most suitable for the Any Qualified Provider approach - and Acevo says charities should provide most of them

Charities could play bigger role in providing health services
Charities could play bigger role in providing health services

The Department of Health plans to give a bigger role to charities and private companies in the provision of healthcare services.

Guidance published by the department yesterday says groups of Primary Care Trusts are expected to implement the Any Qualified Provider system in at least three service areas by 2012.

Under the system, patients will be able choose from a range of public, private and voluntary sector organisations to provide their care.

The department has published a list of eight types of provision (see below) that it believes are suited to the new system, including children’s wheelchair services and adult hearing services.

But its guidance says that PCTs can choose to introduce the system for other health services if they are a high local priority.

The guidance says groups of PCTs are expected to start working with patients, carers and professionals by October 2011 to decide which areas they should open up to more competition. It says those choices should be implemented between April and September 2012.

It says other health services, including home chemotherapy, speech and language therapy and antenatal education, could also be delivered under the AQP system in future.

The guidance says providers will be paid a fixed price determined by a national or local tariff, and competition will be based on quality rather than price.

Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo and chair of the NHS Future Forum panel, which last month produced a report on competition and choice in the NHS, told Third Sector he thought charities and social enterprises would deliver the majority of services in the areas being opened up to more competition.

"These are areas in which charities already have a significant role and do important work," he said. "Over the next decade the role of charities in health services will grow significantly."

He said the government still had to address barriers to third sector involvement in service delivery by reforming commissioning and making it easier for charities to access capital.

Types of provision recommended by the DoH for the new, competition-based system

- Services for back and neck pain

- Adult hearing services in the community

- Continence services (adults and children)

- Diagnostic tests closer to home

- Wheelchair services (children)

- Podiatry (feet) services

- Leg ulcer and wound healing

- Talking Therapies (Primary Care Psychological therapies, adults).

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