Plans to renew community services contracts automatically could be a missed opportunity to improve the NHS for patients.
The regulator believes that clinical commissioning groups, responsible for much of the £10 billion the NHS spends on community services, should explore how best to improve the care available to their patients as these contracts come to an end.
Monitor heard from 147 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England and found that, of contracts expiring in 2015, half of CCGs plan to extend at least one of their community services contracts with their current provider.
The regulator’s report, published today (22 January 2015), identifies a number of ways that commissioners are already improving community care provision, which may help other commissioners. These include involving patients in selecting community services providers, working in partnership with local government to co-ordinate services and using patient outcomes to incentivise improvements in care.
Catherine Davies, Executive Director of Cooperation and Competition at Monitor, said:
Improving community services for patients is critical to helping make sure the NHS continues to provide high-quality care and can meet the current and future challenges it faces.
We do not think that commissioners should automatically roll over community services contracts. As the arrangements run out they should take the opportunity to explore ways of improving the community care available to their patients.
Looking to improve services for patients does not mean necessarily putting contracts out to full competitive tender, but it may be the best option in some cases.
The regulator is happy to talk to commissioners about how to approach making improvements to community services.