New provider deal will mean a ‘race to the bottom’ on price, says CSP

Government plans to increase patient choice to community services, by extending competition and allowing services to be provided by any qualified provider, are ‘hugely disappointing’ and ‘potentially very serious for patient care’, the CSP has warned.

The Department of Health announced on 19 July that all patients should be given choice in who provides their treatment across at least three areas of community services by September next year.

Under the any qualified provider proposals, the department produced a list of out-of-hospital services that will be part of the initial scheme, including services for back and neck pain, and wheelchair services for children. But there will be local flexibility to include other services.

A national directory will list all qualified providers, which could include private firms, charities, or social enterprises, and services will be paid for based on national or locally agreed tariffs.

The government insists this means that competition will be based on quality, not price, but CSP chief executive Phil Gray said the CSP had ‘consistently raised’ with the DH concerns that local tariffs would lead to a ‘race to the bottom on price’.

‘Commissioners will see how little private providers are delivering a service for in neighbouring areas, and revise down their own price,’ he said.

‘Quality, comprehensive, services cannot be delivered for such knock-down prices – patients will receive fewer, shorter, sessions of treatment from less experienced physios.’

Mr Gray said these concerns appeared to have ‘fallen on deaf ears’ following the government’s announcement.

‘This is hugely disappointing and potentially very serious for patient care in the future,’ he said.

Lesley Mercer, director of employment relations added that the CSP continues to work on members’ behalf. ‘We are not just raising our concerns about the potential implications of the any qualified provider policy, but also to influence the further guidance for local commissioners and providers that the Department of Health is working on.’ 

The CSP will soon issue a short briefing for members on the information issued by the department, followed with a more detailed briefing in the autumn.

Graham Clews

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