Help during the crisis

By Robin Stride

A new programme is being devised to encourage, advise and support private consultants as they deal with new ways of working and novel business models emerging in the months ahead. 

The initiative, from the London Consultants Association (LCA), will be aimed at current independent practitioners and younger new entrants. 

Dr Mark Vanderpump

LCA chairman Dr Mark Vander­pump said: ‘We are keen to help existing consultants re-establish themselves to continue to deliver expert care within the private sector post-pandemic’. 

He is heading the development of a programme building on existing offerings such as popular medico-legal training sessions, which will now include some virtual sessions.

A mentoring programme for younger consultants is also underway. This will give new members access to established consultants in their own specialty to receive support during these testing times for independent practitioners’ businesses. 

Full-time private doctors are among the thousands of firms seeking Government loans to try and survive the pandemic.

Once lockdown is relaxed, the LCA plans to run evening meetings to specifically address consultants’ needs in a changing and untested environment. 

New business models

It said consideration would also be given to new business models that allowed consultants to drive their own quality agenda and maintain their professional autonomy. The pros and cons of employment models will also be looked at. 

Dr Vanderpump told Independent Practitioner Today: ‘The LCA is alert to the potential impact of this emergency on private practice. 

‘We are optimistic that a new medical professionalism can be established to allow the NHS and private sector to work in a complementary and seamless manner for the benefit of patients.’

Although the international market will be severely hit by health and travel restrictions for the foreseeable future, the LCA expects this to recover as foreign patients seeking tertiary care return to the capital’s private sector expertise. 

It believes it is therefore important that the sector maintains its profile and senior consultants return to practice. 

The LCA considers that corporate medical insurance policies will be dropped by some small and mid-sized companies who are struggling to make themselves profitable again. 

But this, plus longer NHS waiting lists, will mean a self-pay upsurge. 

Specialist medical accountant Ray Stanbridge commented: ‘There’s a huge pent-up demand for private practice and even though it has been pretty awful for some consultants, I think it is going to boom away.

‘I think it is going to bounce back very strongly; it might even emerge stronger out of it. For independent practitioners now, it is a question of being positive. Some have been quite depressed, but economic cycles come and go. I’d advise them to be positive and trust in their own particular skills.’

A surge in self-pay patients who do not wish to wait for their turn on extended NHS waiting lists is also predicted by the Federation of Independent Practitioner Organ­isations (FIPO).

Private practice business expert Jane Braithwaite, writing in this issue (see ‘Lockdown is the time to plan for the future’), said: ‘Private practice income has dropped to negligible levels in the last two months and, from a business perspective, this is devastating for many.

‘But things will get better quickly once private hospitals re-open and the lockdown is lifted. Private practice will see a rapid increase in activity levels.’