‘Work jointly to grow’

LaingBuisson conference
By Robin Stride

Private healthcare is poised for strong growth if it works to harness a variety of emerging opportunities, according to the boss of the Association of Independent Health­­care Organisations (AIHO).

Westminster Advisers Client photo

Fiona Booth

Chief executive Fiona Booth told the LaingBuisson Private Acute Healthcare Conference in London there were openings through collaboration with the Government, NHS and private medical insurance (PMI) stakeholders.

She said: ‘Steady growth in self-pay gives a strong indication that people are increasingly willing to pay for healthcare, yet uptake of PMI has stagnated. AIHO believes that, through collaboration with stakeholders, we need to look at what products are on offer and work collaboratively to develop products that are attractive and valued by consumers.

‘I am absolutely positive that, through collaboration and with the right product, we can grow the PMI market together.’

Ms Booth said the new Con­servative Government’s willingness to engage with businesses and to support private-public partnerships meant there was a real
opportunity to start engaging pro-actively.

She continued: ‘The Spending Review is also underway and I have found the door is open to discuss what the sector can do to support the NHS, and the nation’s health, more widely.

‘We know the sector can deliver a greater range of services and to more insured and self-paying patients alike. We need to be discussing how an invigorated and incentivised PMI market can make a real difference to the economy and the public purse.’

The sector grew by almost £4bn last year, she said, largely through its partnership with the NHS at a time when the population’s needs were growing and intensifying in complexity.

Independent hospitals were continuing to invest annually in innovative and cutting-edge care. This was often used to benefit NHS trusts and patients.

Evidence of contribution

Ms Booth said with the Govern­ment focused on delivering large-scale efficiencies and productivity gains, the sector needed to effectively evidence its contribution.

As a result, AIHO – which represents over 250 hospitals – had partnered with health economists to look at the sector’s provision of elective orthopaedic treatments.

‘Specifically, we a looking at hip and knee surgery and the social and economic contribution this makes in terms of value and outcomes. We will have the results of this work soon and look forward to sharing them with you.’

Turning to the new Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections of independent hospitals, she said being inspected against the same fundamental standards as NHS hospitals would help counter the misplaced view that private sector standards were less rigorous than those in the health service.

Early indications from members suggested the new inspection regime was more credible and robust than in the past, but there was still ‘some way to go’ in ensuring that all inspectors understood independent hospitals and that the CQC recognised the sector’s model of provision rather than trying to fit it in to an NHS model.

She said some of the CQC’s new standards on effectiveness and leadership would highlight best practice within the sector. ‘This will give us more to showcase to policy-makers, patients and the media.’