UK will do less competitive tendering in healthcare commissioning

With the effects of the pandemic ravaging the UK economy, the government has announced the most sweeping reforms to the National Health Service (NHS) in over a decade.  There is to be a major re-set for how health services are commissioned including:

  • Increased political oversight
  • Reduced focus on competitive tendering and contracting
  • Mandating service integration between health and social services
  • Organisation restructuring

These changes may influence how commissioning happens in places like Australia as we tend to follow the UK’s lead.  Check out the UK health reform White Paper– Integration and Innovation: working together to improve health and social care for all.  

Why is the UK reducing the role of the market?

  • Market forces as a driver for efficiency are losing support
  • There is a sense that the preoccupation with contracts has been at the expense of patients
  • The pandemic has made politicians aware that they currently have limited influence over day-to-day operations of the NHS. The ‘levers’ they have are indirect and slow to work.
  • The pandemic has stress-tested the NHS, highlighting variability in service integration
  • In 2020 the UK experienced the steepest economic recession in over 300 years

What might this mean for commissioners in Australia?

  • The role of contestability as the preferred route for commissioning may be reviewed
  • PHN’s may find it easier to argue to become direct service providers on the basis that service integration can be ‘hard-wired’ for hard-to-serve patient groups
  • The Commonwealth may use sector reforms to resolve perceived under-performance in some PHNs through rationalisation and amalgamation
Will Australia’s PHNs be told to reduce the ‘cut and thrust’ of market competition in order to enable collaboration and integration?

Conversation starters: 

  • What opportunities do you see if Australia decides to ‘hard-wire’ integrated care for at-risk patients with complex care needs?
  • How might you be able to leverage existing strategic partnerships to fast-track Integrated Care Services in your catchment?