The private sector pulls its weight


Westminster Advisers Client photo

Fiona Booth

By Fiona Booth, chief executive of the Association of Independent Healthcare Organisations (AIHO)

A BMA report published last April called for the independent sector to be subject to the same robust standards as NHS providers.

However, independent hospitals are already subject to these standards.

As the trade association for independent and charitable acute hospitals, the Association of Independent Healthcare Organis­ations (AIHO) is clear that patient safety, outcomes and quality are the highest priority for the sector; just as they are in the NHS.

The BMA has made a number of recommendations to Govern­ment around transparency of patient safety incidents and performance, as well as ensuring a standardised inspection approach by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

It also argues the sector should contribute to the education and training of the NHS workforce.

However, independent hospitals are already subject to the same CQC inspection and regulation regime, just like NHS hospitals.

If the CQC found any serious care failing in an independent hospital, it would apply the appropriate enforcement measures in the same way that it does for NHS hospitals.

The independent sector has also been working with the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS). The NRLS is a comprehensive database of patient safety information and will enable the independent sector to report incidents in the same way NHS hospitals do.

AIHO is keen for this to move forward at pace and for it to be given greater priority.

Comparable to NHS

AIHO acknowledges that the sector should publish data in a way that is comparable to NHS data.

As such, the sector has established an independent body, the Private Healthcare Information Net­work (PHIN), to help collect a wide range of data. This will allow patients to make informed choices about their care and will also demonstrate the sector’s high standards.

The independent sector also invests significant funds each year on training and development for staff. It employs more than 60,000 clinical staff and is committed to enhancing training and professional development opportunities for all of them.

This includes funding degrees and diplomas for people already working in the sector as well as those looking to work in healthcare from other industries, including offering practice placements for those training to become allied health professionals.

Disappointing view

It is disappointing that the BMA has taken this view and is reluctant to see the independent sector as a valued partner to the NHS. The BMA acknowledges in the report that private sector involvement in the NHS is relatively small at less than 6% of the overall health budget. Within this 6%, the sector supports the delivery of a range of high-quality services to patients at a tariff set by the NHS.

UK independent hospitals have significant additional capacity which can help reduce pressure on NHS front-line services and reduce waiting times.

Furthermore, with comparable data on performance and safety, patients can make informed decisions about where to receive treatment.

Choice drives patient empowerment and improves outcomes and should be welcomed by the BMA and the healthcare industry more widely.

  • See ‘Quality data pilot starts’