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Editor’s blog Monday 26 July 2010: Government's provider regulation consultation is out

The provider regulation consultation is here, and not only promises to abolish foundation trusts' private patient income cap as trailed, it also abolishes their statutory borrowing limit.

What could possibly go wrong with that?

The press release promises that the consultation "makes the case for releasing foundation trusts so we have the most vibrant social enterprise sector anywhere in the world.".

It proposes:
"- removing the statutory private income cap to give trusts opportunities to expand the services they offer to patients - but ensuring that they remain focussed on providing NHS services;
- removing statutory borrowing limits that are not imposed on voluntary or private providers;
- making it easier for a foundation trust to merge or take over another trust; and
- giving more flexibility to foundation trusts to allow greater staff and patient involvement with the possibility of some smaller organisations being led only by employees.

"Monitor will become the economic regulator for the NHS, sitting alongside the Care Quality Commission (CQC) who will continue to regulate quality.  It will be responsible for:
- licensing providers of NHS services in an integrated and streamlined registration and licensing regime with the CQC;
- setting tariff prices for NHS services;
- promoting competition so that the NHS gives patients the best possible services and outcomes, and ensuring a level playing field for providers; and
- supporting commissioners in ensuring that services for patients are maintained when providers fail"

Now that last point is quite intriguing.

The economic regulator will support commissioners to maintain provision when providers fail.

How does that work? Unless Monitor becomes the takeover body for really bad providers. Which would seem a curious, interest-conflicting thing for an independent regulator to do.