“Wherever possible, public services should be open to a range of providers competing to offer a better service.”
- Open Public Services White Paper
The Government believes that for the public to have genuine choice over different types of services, provision of services must be opened to providers of a variety of sizes and sectors. It believes that if services could be provided by the public, voluntary, and private sectors, there would be greater competition to drive quality.
This principle has been the most politically contentious of the Government’s reforms for public services. The section 75 regulations of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 that open the NHS to competition law have been at the centre of a vociferous political debate about the extent to which the private sector should play a role in the health service. After heated objections from various royal medical colleges, patient groups, GPs and the British Medical Association amongst many others, which were taken up by the Labour front bench, the Government was forced to rewrite the regulations. The House of Lords voted in favour of the revised version on 24 April 2013.
Likewise, the scandal over G4S’ handling of the Olympics’ security services, and the allegations of fraud surrounding A4e’s welfare-to-work services, have generated much debate on diversifying public services.
Where has this been delivered?
- The Academies Act 2010 defines a qualified Academy proprietor as a charity, thereby opening up more schools to be run by charities.
Local Authority services
- The Localism Act 2011 enables voluntary and community groups to express an interest in running a local authority service through the Community Right to Challenge, and requires local authorities to carry out a procurement exercise for running that service.
Health and Care services
- The Health and Social Care Act 2012 frees up providers, including NHS foundation trusts, to innovate to deliver quality services.
- The Health and Social Care Act also enables patients to choose services which best meet their needs from Any Qualified Provider (AQP), including from charity or independent sector providers, as long as they meet the required minimum standards.