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NHS as the preferred provider policy

17 September 2009

On 17 September 2009 the then Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham announced that he would adopt an NHS preferred provider approach, stating that: 'The time has come for us to set out a better way of pursuing reform in the NHS. Top-down reform was right for its time, but it can only go so far. It led to a feeling that reform was imposed; done to people, rather than with them. It gave unintended messages at ward level - 'Public bad. Private good'- and process targets implied a lack of trust.'

In October 2009, a letter from Sir David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS, outlined that the policy of NHS preferred provider would, in practice, mean getting the best care for patients, while looking after the NHS staff who cared for them.

For a new or substantially redesigned service, primary care trusts would be expected to engage with the existing and other providers, enabling them to contribute a service specification before a decision on whether to openly tender could take place. Existing providers would have the opportunity to improve their services before services were opened out to other providers.

The letter also outlined, however, that the government remained committed to the participation of independent and third sector providers where new services models were required, there was a need to increase capacity, offer choice to patients or stimulate innovation.


Burnham, A.
Speech by the Rt Hon Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Health.
Speech presented at the Kings Fund.
2009 Sep 17; London.

Correspondence between Sir David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS, and PCT/SHA Chief Executives.
The NHS as preferred provider.