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Discount war is predicted as NHS trusts are given right to compete on price

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c7366 (Published 21 December 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c7366
  1. Jeremy Laurance
  1. 1The Independent

NHS trusts in England are to compete on price for the first time in what could become a supermarket style discount war as they strive to attract business in the new NHS market.

As part of the health secretary Andrew Lansley’s drive towards “liberating the NHS”—the subtitle of his white paper published in July (BMJ 2010;341:c3796, doi:10.1136/bmj.c3796)—the rule requiring NHS trusts to operate with fixed prices, competing only on quality, is to be scrapped.

The change is contained in a single paragraph in the NHS Operating Framework for 2011-12, published on 16 December (BMJ 2010;341:c7286, doi:10.1136/bmj.c7286). Critics have described it as “politically explosive,” with the potential to reduce quality, force hospital closures, and increase death rates.

Paragraph 5.43 on page 54 of the document says: “One new flexibility being introduced in 2011-12 is the opportunity for providers to offer …

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