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10.02.15

‘Voluntary’ tariff worth examining – NHS Providers

The proposal of a new ‘voluntary’ tariff for 2015-16 is “worth examining” but many questions must be answered before it can “be seriously considered”, NHS Providers has stated.

NHS England boss Simon Stevens has suggested making a new ‘voluntary’ offer to trusts – agreed outside the formal price setting rules – to avoid tariff delays, which have caused substantial frustration for NHS organisations.

He added that the proposal, which has not been agreed upon by NHS England and Monitor   yet, would be voluntary for providers, but not commissioners.

Stevens’ intervention comes after it was revealed last month that there had been objections from providers about the initial proposed 2015-16 tariff.

Responding to the ‘voluntary’ tariff proposal, Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “The whole point of the 2012 Act in this area was to give all affected providers a legitimate and justified say in the prices they are paid for the care they deliver. That must be preserved. To solve this difficult situation, two things are vital.

“First, NHS England and Monitor [with which NHS England has joint price setting responsibilities] must march completely in step. Monitor has a range of statutory obligations here and there is no point pursuing solutions that do not meet those obligations. The law is the law.

“Second, the provider sector and, by extension, those who represent them need to be fully and intimately involved in any solution. There’s little point in flying kites that haven’t been fully and properly tested with those affected.”

He added that if the latest proposals are to be explored a “whole range of questions” need to be considered including what would be in the tariff? Is it legal? What does Monitor think of it? And how will all providers, particularly those who objected to the original proposals, be able to express their views on any new proposals?

Under the Health & Social Care Act 2012, NHS England and Monitor would need to either refer their tariff proposals to the Competition and Market Authority for review or consult again on “revised” prices. But, whichever route is taken, it is unlikely no new tariff will be confirmed by 1 April.

Stevens told HSJ that the voluntary tariff would deal with some but not all of the issues that people are worried about from the original 2015-16 proposals. However, it could hit a balance between dealing with “the legitimate pressures that hospitals are facing while continuing to invest in mental health and primary care”.

He added that NHS England hopes it may be able to work with Monitor to produce proposals on next steps by the end of February.

NHE has asked NHS England for further comment and detail on the ‘voluntary’ tariff, but at the time of publication had received no reply.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

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