The chair of the House of Commons Health Select Committee has asked health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt to postpone plans to introduce a contract for a new model of healthcare organisation.
Sarah Wollaston, who is also a GP, has written to Hunt requesting that he delay the introduction of the new contract for Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs).
Wollaston said there was a “great deal of concern” over the plans, which, she said, “have not been well aired publicly up until now”.
ACOs involve NHS providers merging to create a single organisation, or commissioners using competitive procurement to invite bids from organisations capable of taking on a contract to deliver services to a defined population.
In July 2017, NHS England announced eight areas which would become Accountable Care Systems, which are seen as precursors to ACOs. In August 2017, a draft ACO contract was also introduced, which will allow Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to choose to commission from ACOs in their areas. The government has argued that some regulatory changes will be required in order for the ACO contract to be used.
In her letter, Wollaston requested a delay “until after the Health Committee has taken the opportunity to hear evidence on the issues around the introduction of ACOs in the NHS”.
She said: “As I am sure you are aware, a great deal of concern has been expressed about the development of ACOs in the NHS. I expect the Committee to consider these concerns, and the responses to them, in the course of its inquiry into sustainability and transformation partnerships, announced last autumn.”
She said the committee will present its findings after Easter, and that its inquiry “will provide an opportunity to hear both sides of the arguments around the development of accountable care models”.