[holding answer 18 February 2008]: The Department's role in relation to the involvement of private health care companies in providing national health service services is to establish the conditions and rules to ensure that such involvement is in the interests of patients, the public and taxpayers. The Department does not directly regulate or monitor private companies' involvement in specific local services.
It is for primary care trusts (PCTs), the local leaders of the NHS, to commission an appropriate range of high-quality health care services to meet the needs of their population. In circumstances where existing services are not of the required quality, or where new services are needed, PCTs may decide to procure alternatives from other NHS organisations or from the private sector or the third sector. Strategic health authorities ensure that PCTs carry out their commissioning role effectively, and in line with the principles and rules for competition established by the Department.
The Healthcare Commission is responsible for regulating independent sector providers and assessing NHS providers.