Fears increase as NHS competition reforms get closer

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Jeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt might be forced to clarify NHS reform plans again. Photo: Suzanne Plunkett/PA Wire

With just days to go before the Coalition's NHS reforms take effect, it seems fears over just how much competition will be injected into the system are still very much alive.

In an interview with me earlier, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt insisted the new rules on competition wouldn't mean a free-for-all, with most NHS services opened up to private or independent providers.

But a group of GPs in east London are far from reassured.

They've been offering to run an Out of Hours service for their patients, currently in private hands, but were told they couldn't do so unless they put in a competitive tender.

They say this could cost £30,000-£50,000, money that would be better spent on patient care.

Whether this is a one-off case or just the tip of a rather large iceberg, isn't yet clear.

It certainly seems at odds with how the reforms were first sold - that is putting doctors in the driving seat.

Jeremy Hunt is still adamant that this is what his plans will do.

But he may be forced to clarify the regulations once again, if it seems - as some experts suggest - the market comes to dominate in a new-look NHS.