The European Union (EU)'s proposed new directive on public procurement will allow "more scope for negotiating with suppliers," according to the NHS Confederation.
The proposals, which have been published by the European Commission this week, contain a number of provisions aimed at simplifying the rules for the purchasing of goods and services and making them more flexible.
While much of what is proposed is to welcomed by the NHS, further clarity, and subsequent changes, are still required on some of the proposals, says the Confederation.
The proposals include:
- increased flexibility and simplification in areas including the procedures to follow, negotiations and time limits;
- a special regime for health service contracts, which will replace the distinction between Part A and Part B services. Contracts below the new threshold of 500,000 euros will be subject to a "lighter" public procurement regime, given their limited cross-order interest. However, the Confederation also notes that contracts over 500,000 euros will now need to appear among the contracts and award notices published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU);
- a lighter regime for sub-central contracting authorities, with a higher threshold of 200,000 euros and the possibility to use a simplified and faster procedure;
- clarification about when cooperation between public bodies is not subject to public procurement rules; and
- a mandatory requirement for contracts to be split into lots.
The Confederation comments that the new rules are particularly timely, given the developments currently taking place within health and social care in England, and government principles aimed at encouraging NHS organisations to procure goods and services from a broader range of suppliers.
The director of the Confederation's NHS European office, Elizabeth Zanon, is reported by the Health Service Journal as stating that the EU proposal would be "a significant change and we will have to fully consider its potential implications for the NHS."
However, she continued: "from both a procedural and a cultural perspective, this legislation will impact the way commissioners routinely tender for services in the future."
"The proposed directive allows more scope for negotiating with suppliers," said Ms Zanon.