Patients who are insured ‘will cause the most problem’

Publishing private healthcare fee data is a significant step in achieving better information for self-pay patients, according to the Feder­ation of Independent Practitioner Organisations (FIPO).

It said it fully supported consultations and treatment fee transparency and was keen to ensure any information provided to patients was robust and accurate. 

FIPO also backed a PHIN warning about medical fees being ‘just one part of the total price of private healthcare’.

It said fee disclosure for self-pay patients was ‘a relatively straightforward business’, but argued this was not so for the 75% of patients with private medical insurance. 

A FIPO statement complained that the vast majority of consultants no longer set their own fees because these were dictated by insurers – making redundant any competition by price. 

‘Many more senior and experienced consultants have either had their recognition removed by the insurers or are not recommended at the point of pre-authorisation, as they may be more expensive. 

‘This inhibits patient choice and interferes with the CMA’s aim of encouraging greater competition.’

It said patients were less interested in fee rates and more interested in a consultant’s level of expertise and experience.

‘FIPO has always been concerned that a strong personal relationship between doctor and patient should remain sacrosanct. Medical ethics and professionalism must not be overshadowed by an overwhelming emphasis on cost, especially when real freedom of choice may be constrained; for example, by conditions imposed by insurers.

‘Patients are not consumers in the classic business sense. The complexities of healthcare extend beyond cost alone and FIPO believes that patients should fully understand the implications of their choice and its possible impact on achieving the best possible personal outcome.’