Win for group practices

By Robin Stride

Private anaesthetists have welcomed an appeal judgment upholding a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) finding that forming and operating an anaesthetic group does not lead to adverse effects on competition.

The Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI) supported the original CMA ruling in April 2014 which was part of the authority’s private healthcare investigation.

AXA PPP subsequently challenged that before the Comp­etition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) last January, but last month heard that it had lost on all three grounds.

Dr Paul Barker AAGBIDr Paul Barker (right), chairman of the AAGBI Independent Practice Com­mittee, told Independent Practitioner Today: ‘Patient safety is the AAGBI’s primary objective. We believe that group anaesthetic practice brings important benefits to patients when their care is provided in this way.

‘On-call systems, subspecialisation and governance structures that reflect those found in the NHS and provide a single point of contact for patients both pre- and postoperatively further improve safety and quality of care.’

He said the AAGBI, which represents 10,800 anaesthetists, welcomed any opportunity to improve safety and quality of care, as these were priorities for patients and members.

AAGBI engaged with every stage of the inquiry, submitted evidence to the initial investigation and also intervened in the appeal proceedings.

AXA PPP said: ‘We are surprised and disappointed the CAT has not upheld our appeal.

‘The evidence we presented – namely that, in some local markets, the combination of anaes­thetist groups with high market shares and the practice of collective fee-setting within those groups leads to a loss of rivalry and consequently has an adverse effect on competition – was sound and in keeping with our own experience and that of others who purchase private anaesthetists’ services.

‘We remain concerned that this is a significant issue for patients and we will continue to challenge unfair practices in the interests of our members.’