The House of Commons Health Select Committee has announced plans to scrutinise four key health care regulatory bodies, including the NHS economic regulator Monitor.
Following its previous announcement that it intends to hold regular annual review meetings with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the Committee now says it has decided to adopt a similar approach in relation to Monitor, and it has called on both the CQC and Monitor to present evidence to it in separate sessions on June 28.
The government's plans to empower Monitor to ensure the promotion of competition in the NHS have proved extremely controversial, particularly with doctors and also with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and last week Health Secretary Andrew Lansley appeared to be backtracking on his plans for the regulator when he stated: "we have always said competition is a means to an end, not an end in itself."
"Monitor's job is to promote the best interests of patients. This is clearly an area where we are looking to listen and make improvements to make this absolutely clear," he said, during a webchat with readers of The Guardian newspaper.
The Department of Health has also issued a statement emphasising that it had "never been our intention to introduce blanket competition into the NHS. But unfortunate comparisons between the health service and utility industries, particularly around the role of Monitor, have clearly made people very nervous about just how far these proposals go in introducing competition into the NHS."
Monitor also caused a storm in early May when its chief operating officer, Stephen Hay, told NHS hospitals that they will have to make annual efficiency savings of 6%-7% a year, 50% more than the 4% annual savings sought by Ministers.
The Health Committee members say that while there will be no formal calls for evidence for the sessions relating to Monitor and the CQC, they will be pleased to receive written submissions on the work of both organisations by noon on June 22.
The MPs will also be taking evidence from the General Medical Council (GMC), following their declaration in February that it "intended to exercise the power nominally held by the Privy Council to hold the GMC to account." They have also now decided to extend this approach to the Nursing and Midwifery Council and will take evidence from both organisations on June 14.
- The Health Committee has also announced a new inquiry into public health, stating that a review is particularly important at this time, "given that the government is proposing major changes to the organisation of public health services, as part of its wider plans for reform of the NHS."
"These changes, which are being legislated for in the Health and Social Care Bill, were originally welcomed by those in the field but have subsequently become highly contentious," says the panel, which is calling for written evidence to be received by noon on June 13.