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Private healthcare prices becoming more transparent but further progress needed, warns PHIN

Thursday 9 May 2019

New information published by the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) will help patients to compare medical fees before seeking treatment, including regional differences in price. However, PHIN also warns that medical fees are just one part of the total price of private healthcare, and that work remains to do to bring full transparency to fees and charges for patients.

Approximately one in four private healthcare procedures in the UK are people paying for their own treatment (‘self-pay’), which is around 200,000 procedures per year. The other 75 per cent are covered by private medical insurance.

Consultants had to disclose their fees for self-pay patients after a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) investigation found that the lack of transparency was unfair to consumers. PHIN was appointed by CMA to collect fee data from consultants and began publishing that information online at the end of April 2019 [1].

On PHIN’s website patients can find information about local specialists offering the treatment they need, including professional fees. PHIN has also launched a new comparative tool to show how prices vary nationally by procedure. It shows the typical fees charged by consultants for initial consultations, treatment, and follow-up consultations for the most common elective procedures performed privately in the UK [2].

PHIN’s data confirms that for initial and follow-up consultations, and many procedures there is a premium to pay for treatment in London. Whereas cataract surgery, the most common private procedure in the UK, is most expensive in the South West, according to the data submitted to PHIN.

While progress is being made on clearer fees, and many providers now offer all-inclusive ‘package prices’ that bundle fees together, PHIN says more needs to be done for consumers.

An informal secret shopper exercise commissioned by PHIN [3] illustrates the lack of clarity on fees consumers may face. It took several exchanges with hospitals and consultants’ medical secretaries to find out if the fees quoted were all inclusive or if there would be other charges. This was hardest for potential patients of consultants who didn’t offer a package price.

To help self-pay patients get a clearer picture of the likely fees they could face, PHIN has produced a guide and video along with a checklist of key things to ask when considering treatment options [4].

PHIN is also recommending the following to ensure greater transparency of fees for self-pay patients:

  • All 15,000+ consultants in the UK who offer private treatment need to publish their fees on PHIN’s website, in order to meet their current legal obligations. Consultants should already be giving patients comprehensive written quotes for fees prior to consultations, diagnostic tests, or treatment. This is required by the CMA Order and supports General Medical Council (GMC) Good Medical Practice guidelines.
  • We would like to see all private hospitals publish their prices on PHIN’s website to ensure that patients get a complete, transparent and fair picture of costs when choosing a provider. PHIN already enables hospitals to publish prices for common procedures, and some hospitals have begun to publish their inclusive package prices.
  • The private healthcare sector needs to do more work together to ensure that patients can get a guide price for the full expected price of treatment, and that prices, terms and conditions can be easily compared. These can then be published by PHIN. Despite improved transparency on price, patients may still struggle to compare terms and conditions between providers – for example, whether diagnostic, physio or follow-ups are included in a quoted price.

Matt James, Chief Executive of PHIN, said: 

“It has been very difficult for patients to find reliable information to compare fees before seeking treatment. We were asked to fix part of that problem by publishing medical fees, and we’ve taken an important step in publishing this information. Patients can now find the typical fees for more than 4,500 consultants, and it’s great that so many consultants are playing their part in improving price transparency. 

“However, the private healthcare sector must do more to ensure that terms, conditions and price are constructed with the patient in mind. This is understandably very complex, and will take time to work through, but is the right thing to do for patients. 

“Patients should know that they have legal rights to have fees set out in advance, so they can better compare their options before committing to a particular consultant.” 

Adam Land, Senior Director of Remedies at the CMA, said: 

“Consultants’ fees need to be clear and accessible if people are to make informed choices. 

“That is why the CMA appointed PHIN to collect and publish information on consultants’ pricing.

“The new information published today will help patients choose the right consultant for their needs.”

 

New Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services and Integrated Care

Thursday 10 January 2019

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has appointed Dr Rosie Benneyworth as the new Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services and Integrated Care. Rosie will take over from Professor Steve Field in early March.

View more information here 

 

 

The Impact of Revalidation on Independent Doctors 

September 2018

We are pleased to advise that we have now completed and submitted to the GMC the audit Tracking the Impact of Revalidation on 500 Doctors Connected to the Independent Doctors Federation. One positive conclusion from the audit is that ‘appraisal appears to be flagging concerns that warrant further action, enabling the RO to step in and ensure that the necessary governance measures are put in place to ensure a doctor remains up to date and fit to practise, ultimately leading to improved patient safety.’ You may wish to read a copy of the full audit report.

 

 

The IDF calls for zero tolerance of poor standards of safety and care in private hospitals

April 2018

The Independent Doctors’ Federation (IDF) has called for zero tolerance of poor standards of safety and care in all independent hospitals and clinics.

The demand follows the publication of the latest Care Quality Commission (CQC) report on private hospitals.

While the majority of the 206 private hospitals inspected were providing good or outstanding care, the CQC said safety was a concern and that 41% of hospitals required improvement, with a further 1% deemed inadequate.

Since the initial inspections, The IDF understands that around half of the hospitals requiring improvement have raised standards, but too many still need to take action.

As the leading independent doctors’ representative organisation, the IDF is calling for zero tolerance of poor safety standards and care.

IDF President, Dr Brian O’Connor said, “The independent sector provides world class care and the UK is an increasingly popular destination for patients from all over the world. We recognise that there is never a perfect situation where every facility is without a problem every day of the year. However patients have the right to the highest standards of care and safety and there should be zero tolerance of anything less. As doctors we want to see the same high standards across the whole of the healthcare sector, private and NHS and while we support the continuing efforts of the CQC to help make this a reality, we call on all providers to ensure enough resource is available to ensure the highest standards of clinical governance,”  he said.

As a Designated Body, the IDF's Appraisal and Revalidation practice upholds the high standards on behalf of its members. The IDF encourages its members to participate fully in the systems that are in place in the hospitals in which they work and also to practice to the very highest standards. If they see problems they should take immediate action.

The full CQC Report can be seen here.

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