NHS England’s commissioning changes risk conflict of interest and could undermine people’s rights

Granting long-stay hospitals responsibility for care commissioning will create serious conflicts of interest, warns the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG).

The care and support sector has significant concerns following news in the Health Service Journal that commissioning powers are to be given to providers.

The controversial plans give power to secure hospitals to both commission and provide services. The proposals include private hospitals that are severely restrictive and have been directly implicated in the abuse of autistic people, those with a learning disability or mental health conditions.

VODG wants NHS England to rethink the plans because they could further dilute rights for disabled people instead of enabling them to have full choice over services that help them to live the lives they choose.

The group is calling on NHS England to eradicate the conflict of interest in care delivery plans created by the new proposals. It is also urging NHS England to pause and engage with health, social care and mental health partners, including people who use services and families, to better inform future direction.

Dr Rhidian Hughes, VODG chief executive said:

“Good providers are developing progressive services to meet people’s health, mental health and care needs. We need a system that reduces its over-reliance on long-stay secure hospitals and places decisions firmly in the hands of people who use services. But these proposals raise further concerns about current policy making ever distant to upholding people’s individuals’ rights and freedoms. Giving power to secure hospitals to both commission and provide services is not right the right thing to do.”

Dr Hughes goes on to say:

“As far as we are aware, engagement with the voluntary sector around this policy announcement has been limited. Policy proposals generated in a vacuum, divorced from the rights of people who use services, and without the engagement of those organisations and individuals that are seeking to uphold rights and champion new approaches, risks seriously undermining NHS England’s much heralded long-term plan.”

The latest concerns about NHS commissioning follow the government’s attempt to give long-stay hospitals power to authorise deprivations of liberty. Cross-sector opposition to the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill resulted in a climb down on proposals, yet serious concerns with forthcoming legislation remain. VODG strongly objects to any further proposals that introduce a conflict of interest between the provision of care and people being supported.