Sal Brinton and Paul Scriven defeat Government in Lords over NHS procurement

Lib Dem Peers Sal Brinton and Paul Scriven helped inflict a defeat on the Government in the House of Lords last night.

Their amendment to the Procurement Bill would ensure that the NHS came under the provisions of the Bill and would not give the Health Secretary the power to make up their own rules at their whim.

Sal told Peers:

The Health and Care Act adds new Section 12ZB to the National Health Service Act, which says:

“Regulations may make provision in relation to the processes to be followed and objectives to be pursued … in the procurement of (a) health care services … and (b) other goods or services”.

The problem is that the new section goes on to say:

“Regulations under subsection (1) must, in relation to the procurement of all health care services … make provision for the purposes of ensuring transparency; ensuring fairness; ensuring that compliance can be verified; managing conflicts of interest”.

That is a very different bar of compliance than the Government want to see for every other part of the public sector covered by the Bill.

At the strategic level, it will be enormously helpful to understand why the Government feel it is appropriate for the NHS not to be included, but my practical problem is that we have relied somewhat on the assurances of Ministers at the Dispatch Box that only clinical services would be caught by the new SIs under the Health and Care Act and the NHS Act 2006.

I have just read out the parts that show that is absolutely not the case. In fact, there is a catch-all in “other goods or services”. So, while we spent a little time in Committee trying to discuss where the boundaries are, it seems to me that there are no such boundaries, and that leaves me very greatly concerned about how this will work in practice.

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  • Helen Dudden 29th Nov '22 - 11:17am

    This is needed to cover the buying of services within Public spending. Well Done to you both!

  • >we have relied somewhat on the assurances of Ministers at the Dispatch Box
    This seems to be a big problem with UK law making, too often much is seemingly agreed verbally “at the Dispatch Box” to get a bill on to the statute book, but those agreements don’t get reflected in the actual text of the bill.

    Whilst there is much to dislike about the Amercian system, it does seem that to get a bill through both houses, it has to explicitly contain all the “horse-trading” agreements.

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