PCTs often put contracts out to tender when this is not legally required, says Dr James Kingsland.
Putting primary care services out to tender is controversial, especially when local GPs' bids fail and a private sector organisation wins the contract.
There is also confusion over whether primary care organisations (PCOs) are obliged to go through the tendering process. In some cases, GPs suspect that the only reason for tendering is that the PCT is hoping a private bidder will undercut the price that local practices offer.
The rules on public sector contracts are complicated and, when commissioning NHS services, European Union (EU) procurement regulations may have to be followed. However, practices tendering for contracts do not need to become experts on public procurement - a broad understanding will help.
In certain circumstances, PCOs are legally required to seek bids before agreeing a contract with a service provider. These obligations may arise under EU directives, under UK law or locally under the PCOs' own rules.
Where local rules apply, they usually follow procedures in DoH standing orders and regulate the manner in which PCOs …