Encouraging competition between providers and promoting patient choice have formed key elements of reforms to improve quality and efficiency in the NHS over the past decade. A crucial aspect of these reforms has been to increase the role of the private providers.
For some elective procedures, such as hip replacements, private providers now deliver almost one in five operations funded by the NHS. However, the impacts of these reforms on patients, commissioners, and providers must be viewed in the context of increases in overall NHS funding.
It is now essential that the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), NHS Trusts, and private providers understand how the market for NHS care operates and will evolve over the next few years, as they face up to a very different financial climate.
The conference formed part of a joint research programme from the Nuffield Trust and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS):Understanding competition and choice in the NHS. The event aimed to provide an opportunity for a range of stakeholders to share their questions and insights with us.
We considered the implications of competition and choice in health care, questioning:
- How have patient flows around the health care system and to different types of providers responded to increases in choice?
- Has increased choice had an impact on patterns of referral?
- How have these changes impacted on the role of NHS and independent sector providers across the country?
- What effect have these changes had on inequalities in access to health care services?
Focusing on interactive discussion, we also:
- Encouraged delegates to enter into a dialogue which reviewed our evidence and questions competition policy;
- Engaged in thought-provoking and challenging debate, interrogating new insights on competition and choice;
- Explored what the implications might be for the Department of Health, NHS Commissioning Board ( now renamed NHS England) and regulators.