The National Health Service has called for "simpler and more flexible" rules regarding public procurement rules in the European Union.

In a submission to the European Commission’s consultation on how public procurement law should be amended, the NHS Confederation’s European Office says that EU rules are often seen as "inflexible, complex and onerous by procurement managers and commissioners". It has asked for the framework to be "significantly simplified."

The NHS is pressing for EU procurement rules to be streamlined, to be made more flexible and to allow for greater negotiation with bidders during the selection and award process. In particular, it has called for "a significant increase of the level at which organisations are obliged to follow EU rules above the current contract value".

The current threshold applies to many "relatively small contracts, putting them through the same onerous tendering processes as ones worth many millions", the NHS Confederation notes. It adds that another key issue raised in the submission relates to which bodies are subject to public procurement rules in light of recent decisions of the European Court on the definition of bodies governed by public law.

Elisabetta Zanon, director of the NHS Confederation’s European Office, said that EU procurement rules play an important role in "making sure taxpayers’ money is spent wisely and our members are continuously trying to get the best possible deal when procuring or commissioning". However, for many organisations, "the current process is considered too bureaucratic and lengthy when it is applied to smaller cost contracts. In the current climate these rules need to be driving savings and innovation, not lumbering organisations with additional cost and paperwork".

She went on to say that reviewing these rules now is "particularly pertinent given the Government’s aims to increase competition in the NHS and transform how commissioning is carried out". Giving patients greater choice about how and where they receive treatment "will mean more providers bidding for services" and "it will be essential to have clear and concise rules in place about how newly-established GP commissioners will be expected to award contracts".

Ms Zanon concluded by saying that "we will continue to press for NHS views on how the rules should be changed to be heard by decision-makers in Brussels in view of EU legal proposals to be released later this year.”