Operational Guidance to the NHS

During the Health Select Committee inquiry on commissioning on 22 March 2011, the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, referred to the concept of 'any qualified provider' (AQP) rather than 'any willing provider'. The Department of Health later explained that while the two concepts were the same, the change in terminology reflected the robust process that providers would need to go through before being deemed a 'qualified' provider.

Further details on the AQP policy were published in response to the Liberating the NHS: greater choice and control consultation. This defined AQP as a commissioning mechanism that would give people more choice of service provider and allow commissioners to maximise the potential number of providers from which patients could choose. This was contrasted with competitive tendering, which would normally result in the selection of an organisation who would provide a service exclusively.

Under AQP, competition would be based on quality and not price, as providers would be paid a fixed price: 'The process for 'any qualified provider' is both quicker and less bureaucratic than a traditional procurement, reducing cost and time on the routine elements of procurement, allowing focus to be given on how providers intend to deliver the service to the benefit of patients. Under any qualified provider, competition is based on quality, not price. Providers are paid a fixed price determined by a national or local tariff.'

In 2011, the Department of Health published Operational Guidance to the NHS which clarified that primary care trust clusters would be expected to implement the policy of AQP by September 2012 for at least three types of services covering community or mental health services. There would need to be a phased approach to implementation, but services that were deemed suitable included podiatry services and adult hearing services in the community.

Source(s)

Department of Health.
Liberating the NHS; greater choice and control - government response. Extending patient choice of provider (any qualified provider).
Department of Health; 2011.

Department of Health.
Operational guidance to the NHS; extending patient choice of provider.
Department of Health; 2011.