Saturday 19 December 2009

Challenging Burnham

This government was elected on a Manifesto that promised the third sector would be treated " on equal terms ". This promise has been comprehensively and dramatically torn up by Andy Burnham. In his policy u- turn he has decreed that the " NHS will be the preferred provider" , caving in to producer interest and the demands of unions like Unite who have been quick to trumpet their victory.

ACEVO has been working behind the scenes to row this back. I have had a number of conversations with Andy- who I like. We have had this extensively discussed in Government at the highest level.

But after a month of discussion we have not been able to achieve as much advance as our members would like or need. Our job is to advance the best interest of our beneficaries. Whilst we like to move forward in consensus. When that is not possible we do what the third sector must always do at such times and campaign.

So we move from the patient argument and discussion stage to the offensive. Yesterday afternoon we submitted a formal complaint of anti competitive behaviour against a PCT to the Department of Health competition Panel. See more details in the Financial Times' story here.

This is one flagrant example of action being taken to discriminate against the sector since the Burnham decree. But there will be others and there may be other complaints logged by other organisations as well.

We shall be taking all steps necessary to show our opposition to this policy u turn. I'm glad to say the Tories have promised to reverse it immediately.

It seems incredible that the interests of the organisation are to be put above the question of which body can provide the best service for the patient and client. We are being told that even where we can offer a more cost effective service that better meets the need of the patient they will in future favour in house provision.

And as the NHS needs to review spending and try to meet expanding need against more constrained public sending the third sector is to be cold shouldered. We are the unpreffered.

There is very little point in government talking of a bigger role for the third sector in delivering citizen focused services when its actions demonstrate this is but rhetoric.

And if the NHS is now the government's preffered provider which department will be next to discriminate against the third sector. Will DWP or MoJ now try to reverse recent commissioning changes to involve our sector more widely ?

Can you pursue one competition (anti) policy in one Department and not others?

Members are pretty disgusted by all this. It is objectionable in principle and impractical in application. It must be reversed.

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