Any Willing Provider – A tool or the whole shooting match?
Much confusion prevails about the status of Any Willing Provider (AWP) in the new Health and Social Care Bill. Is it a tool that GP Commissioning Consortia (GPCs) can deploy as and when they want or will AWP take over the whole system and render Commissioning largely irrelevant? A lot depends on how much of the commissioning process is caught by European Competition law. The independence of Monitor as the economic regulator also assumes particular importance here – will Monitor drive through the deployment of AWP or will the National Commissioning Board (NCB) hold the reins tightly? A lot is at stake – if a provider, usually private, can get AWP status for a service in one part of the country will it be able to automatically get similar status in another locality and assume a place on the Choose and Book register? If so, what power and influence does the GPC have other than to sign off the bills? All this points to a showdown – AWP versus the Choice policy – something has to give.