Patient choice and contestability are potentially powerful drivers of improved quality and efficiency in the provision of National Health Service services. Involving individuals in decisions about their care and offering people a choice of provider, type of treatment, or the time and location of that treatment, are all characteristics of a high-quality, patient-centred health service.
We must ensure that choice, co-operation and competition within the NHS operate in the interests of patients and taxpayers, and that quality is the organising principle. Achieving these aims depends on having a rules-based approach, clear roles and responsibilities for oversight of the system and effective mechanisms for redress.
The Co-operation and Competition panel was established to ensure that NHS-funded services support the delivery of high quality care for patients and value for money for taxpayers. After announcing on 11 September 2008 that Lord Carter of Coles will take up the post of Chair, I am pleased to confirm that the Co-operation and Competition Panel will open for referrals from 30 January 2009.
In carrying out its responsibilities, the Co-operation and Competition panel will work with all parts of the NHS, the independent sector and others to promote best practice, drive improvements in the delivery of healthcare and protect the interests of patients.
The role of the Co-operation and Competition panel is to provide independent advice to strategic health authorities and the Department of Health, and Monitor (for compliance issues concerning NHS foundation trusts), on alleged breaches of the principles and rules of Co-operation and Competition published alongside the 2008-09 operating framework. The rules aim to foster patient choice and use competition to drive service improvements.
On receipt of advice from the Co-operation and Competition panel, it is the responsibility of strategic health authorities, the Department of Health, and Monitor (for compliance issues concerning NHS foundation trusts) to decide whether and how to implement the recommendations.
Strategic health authorities retain responsibility for strategic, competitive and comparative oversight in their locality but now have the additional support offered by the Co-operation and Competition panel to ensure the NHS has effective governance and oversight and operates in the best interests of patients and taxpayers. Strategic health authorities will continue to hold primary care trusts and NHS trusts to account for managing choice and competition.
The Co-operation and Competition panel can also advise the Department of Health and Monitor on the development of policy and wider competition issues within healthcare. In making its recommendations, the Co-operation and Competition panel will help ensure that co-operation and competition within the NHS supports the objective of delivering high-quality care for all.
The commencement of the Co-operation and Competition panel also marks the start of a consultation phase they are undertaking guided by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Code of Practice on Consultation. A series of guidance documents published on their website for consultation, outline how the Co-operation and Competition panel will do business with the NHS. The consultation phase will allow NHS staff and stakeholders sufficient time to understand the process and offer advice, suggestions and alternatives to meet their needs.
I welcome the launch of the Co-operation and Competition panel.
More information about the Co-operation and Competition panel can be found at http://www.ccpanel. org.uk.