A new era: Private consultants & fee transparency

A new era: Private consultants & fee transparency

Should private consultants fees be published online? Consultants, hospitals and patients all have an opinion on the issue of fee transparency. But despite a legal challenge, the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) have ruled that they will be published. And the burden is primarily on consultants to provide fee transparency. In March 2017, the CMA announced that fees will be published online by April 2019. The Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) will gather and publish information on consultant fees.

Consultants fee transparency to patients

In addition to the information PHIN will ask for, consultants working at private hospitals must also supply information directly to patients before a consultation, test or treatment. This applies to consultants who refer patients for treatment or tests and those who have practising privileges at a private hospital. Consultants must give details of fees, estimated costs and a list of recognised insurers amongst other information. Private hospitals should provide consultants with a template letter to do this.

It has been compulsory to provide this information before an outpatient consultation since December 31, 2017. From February 28, 2018, consultants must supply the relevant information to patients before further treatment or tests. All of these requirements stem from Article 22 of the Private Healthcare Market Investigation Order 2014.

Investigations into private healthcare

The shakeup of the private healthcare market has been happening for many years, and we can now see the full extent of the additional regulatory requirements for private providers. Both the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission (now part of the Competitions and Markets Authority) have conducted investigations into private healthcare in recent years. Both investigations were led by concerns that private healthcare was not as accountable as the NHS. The British Orthopaedic Association’s briefing for its members provides an excellent background summary.

The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) reported that private patients didn’t have sufficient access to information in order to compare quality and cost. Their report in 2014 provided a number of ‘remedies’ which PHIN are putting into practice. All private healthcare providers have to provide PHIN with performance information including lengths of stay, mortality rates and readmission figures. This is all detailed in the Private Healthcare Market Investigation Order 2014.

The impact on private consultants

Whilst private hospitals are responsible for ensuring their consultants provide information to patients, the primary burden falls on consultants. Medical support staff such as medical secretaries should be able to assist with additional paperwork, as they are already familiar with other regulatory tasks.

Designated Medical can provide flexible medical secretary support on a monthly plan or PAYG basis, so let us help!

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