MSs sign off on new Health Service Procurement bill
Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter
MSs have unanimously signed off on plans to introduce a new law on procurement in health services across Wales.
Eluned Morgan explained that the Health Service Procurement bill allows Wales to align itself with a new mechanism through which health services will be procured in England.
The provider selection regime aims to give decision-makers in the NHS and councils greater flexibility to promote the interests of patients and taxpayers.
Baroness Morgan told the Senedd: “What we have sought to do through this Bill is to fill a gap that would have been created by those changes, and to avoid inconsistency between the procurement of health services … and the possible negative impacts of that.”
The health minister said the bill provides the flexibility to create a new procurement regime, mirror changes in England or respond quickly during an emergency such as the pandemic.
She said: “I am, however, cognisant of the fact that the flexibility provided under a framework bill is not ideal, as the full details of the proposals are not there in black and white.
“But as I’ve demonstrated throughout Senedd scrutiny of the bill, I’m fully committed to being as open and transparent as possible in the development of the new procurement regime.
“I’ve already committed to a full public consultation on the operational principles of the new procurement regime, and I wish to restate that commitment.”
Gareth Davies, for the Conservatives, was encouraged by the “extensive” level of cooperation and common ground during scrutiny of the bill
Mr Davies, who worked in the NHS for more than a decade, said: “It must no longer be the case that provision for our Welsh NHS is marred with opportunistic overpricing that drains our public coffers with no additional value to patients.
“It is my hope that this bill will guarantee value for money and facilitate the fostering of strong and beneficial relationships between the public and private sectors and – above all – protect the Welsh NHS.”
The Vale of Clwyd MS was disappointed that a Conservative amendment aimed at ensuring parity for social care was defeated at an earlier stage.
Mabon ap Gwynfor, for Plaid Cymru, raised concerns about the scandal surrounding the UK Government’s procurement of personal protective equipment during the pandemic.
The shadow health minister said it underlines the danger of inadequate procurement rules.
Mr Gwynfor, who represents Dwyfor Meirionnydd, also warned that it is imperative that health services are not “undermined” by “privatisation through the back door”.
He expressed concerns about Plaid Cymru amendments to this end being defeated, describing it as a missed opportunity to make procurement as watertight as possible.
Nonetheless, the bill received cross-party support with 50 MSs voting in favour and none against following the stage-four debate on Tuesday November 14.
Now, the clock starts on a four-week period during which the bill could be referred to the Supreme Court for a decision on whether it is within powers.
The Welsh Secretary could also make an order prohibiting the bill from being sent for Royal Assent but no such challenge is expected.
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