Monitor is asking stakeholders to contribute to its early thinking on developing the new NHS provider licence, which is one element of its proposed future role.

In a newly-published framework document, Monitor - currently the regulator for NHS foundation trusts and set to become the economic regulator for health care - sets out its initial thinking, in order to contribute to the debate and understanding of the proposals which relate to it in the Health and Social Care Bill 2011.

If the Bill becomes law, Monitor is likely to need to license providers quickly - by October 2012 for NHS foundation trusts and April 2013 for all other health providers. Therefore, it says, it is starting to think about the shape and content of the proposed licensing regime.

"The framework document is intended to maximise the opportunity for all stakeholders to contribute to that thinking at an early stage, without pre-empting Parliament's decision," it adds.

The document sets out Monitor's initial thinking on: - its engagement process; - its current and new functions; - the proposed structure of the licence; and - the licensing progress that Monitor would operate.

"Our priority is to ensure that our work results in better health services for patients," said Monitor's chairman, Dr David Bennett, commenting on the document's publication.

"To do that successfully, we need to make sure we're listening and engaging with a wide range of stakeholders as early as possible. That's why I've been meeting with leaders from across the health sector to understand their views. Now we want everyone with an interest in how the licensing regime will work to contribute to our thinking. The government's proposals present an exciting challenge for Monitor and this is the first step in getting input on how we respond to that challenge," Dr Bennett added.

Licensing providers would be integral both to Monitor's proposed new role and to its existing role as an independent regulatory of NHS foundation trusts. The licence would be the mechanism which enables Monitor to undertake its main functions as set out in the Bill, including: - regulating prices; - enabling integration and protecting against anti-competitive behaviour; - supporting service continuity; and - continuing its current regulation of NHS foundation trusts for a transition period.

The licence would include conditions related to these functions and would form part of a joint licence with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which will remain responsible for regulating the quality and safety of all providers.