So what is the future for independent practitioners and private healthcare following the election of the new Conservative Government? Here are a selection of views given to Independent Practitioner Today
Andrew Robertson, chief executive, King Edward VII Hospital:
‘Now that a clear majority Government has been established that has a mandate to make meaningful changes in healthcare across the UK, I am hopeful that, over the next five years, we will see more collaboration between private healthcare and the NHS, which I believe will ultimately be in the interests of patients.’
Keith Pollard, chief executive at Intuition Communication Ltd:
‘The private healthcare industry breathed a deep sigh of relief when the election went their way.
‘It could have been very different. Labour’s anti-privatisation mantra is off the agenda. The private sector will continue to support an ailing NHS, and may start to record some decent growth. A return of tax allowances on private insurance might even be on the cards.’
Fiona Booth, chief executive of the Association of Independent Healthcare Organisations (AIHO):
‘The election of a Conservative majority Government suggests continuity in terms of healthcare policy over the next Parliament.
‘We’d anticipate NHS England and the ideas set out in the NHS’s Five Year Forward View, such as new models of care and further decentralisation, being strengthened by the election outcome.
‘The independent healthcare sector understands the pressures facing the NHS. The pre-election debate focused on funding, but talk of the larger efficiencies and savings that are also needed over the next five years hardly featured at all.
‘At the same time, patients also want greater access to high-quality care. The independent sector can make a vital contribution to this significant task in terms of providing additional capacity and expertise that reduces pressure on the NHS, as well as providing alternative options for patients.
‘In addition, the independent sector is also a first-rate innovator in management and clinical care – R&D that ultimately benefits all types of patients. It is important that this key role is also understood across the health sector, including Government and MPs in the new Parliament.
‘AIHO will be working hard at achieving that goal and ensuring that independent hospitals are seen as an essential complement to the NHS.’
Matt James, chief executive, Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN):
‘From PHIN’s perspective, the key benefit of the election result is that we are operating in a relatively known environment with the hope of stability among our members and among critical stakeholder organisations such as the Competition and Markets Authority, Care Quality Commission and Health and Social Care Information Centre.
‘Private healthcare is on a clear track toward better information for patients and it would have been a shame if that had been delayed by political uncertainty or major changes.’
James Gransby, partner, MHA MacIntyre Hudson, accountants:
‘One thing that came with the election result is the sense that there should at least be some stability and clarity as to the direction of travel.
‘This would have been one of the challenges of a coalition government.
‘It will be interesting to see how the “tax lock” promises made on taxation will play out over this parliament – namely, no increases in income tax rates, no increases in VAT, nor an extension of its scope, and no increase in National Insurance nor an increase in its ceiling above the higher rate threshold.
‘The Chancellor will have to be more imaginative than in the past to achieve his taxation revenue aims and we will see what his stance is after his first Budget announcement.
‘A period of stability around pension taxation would be welcome from accountants and financial advisers alike. This has become a particularly tumultuous subject over the last decade.’
Brian O’Connor, Independent Doctors Federation’s specialists’ committee chairman:
‘The stability of a majority Conservative government may well lead to a more mature approach to the delivery of healthcare.
‘Grown-up conversations need to be had to tackle the challenges ahead. The independent sector is ideally placed to complement the NHS and deliver some of the targets of health and social care.’
Let’s stem big rise in complaints against doctors
Tackling the rising cost of clinical negligence claims against doctors should be a top priority for the new administration, according to defence body the Medical Protection Society (MPS).
Concerned that legal costs can dwarf compensation payments, it proposes a fixed-costs regime for small value claims should be introduced to redress the balance.
In a recent case relating to delayed diagnosis of skin cancer, damages of £30,000 for the patient were agreed within five months, yet legal costs were claimed to the sum of £60,000. These costs were eventually settled at £42,000.
Medical director Dr Rob Hendry said: ‘Tough decisions about healthcare funding are made every day and the costs of clinical negligence should not be seen as separate or unconnected from this.
‘Quite simply, more money being set aside to cover the cost of clinical negligence claims, particularly in the NHS, means that front-line services will have less funding available to them. Ultimately, the patient will suffer as a result.
‘We need to have a debate about whether the cost of clinical negligence claims is affordable for society. Our analysis of claims shows that GPs are more likely to be sued now than ever before and it is not unusual for claimants’ lawyers’ costs to exceed the damages awarded to claimants in lower-value clinical negligence claims.’
The MPS said it would also like the focus of the new Government to be ‘on removing the culture of fear in healthcare’ and ‘creating a collaborative, open, learning environment where healthcare professionals are encouraged to want to be accountable’.
It added: ‘While safeguarding the public must be a priority, regulation is not always the best way of achieving this and could lead to healthcare professionals practising defensively, taking the focus away from the best interests of the patient.’