‘Give fixed prices and a comprehensive package’

Prices need to be fixed and transparent when private hospitals start catering again for self-pay patients, according to a leading independent healthcare adviser.

Richard Gregory recommended the price needed to be fully inclusive of all elements, with a generous aftercare commitment. Providers might experience ‘a couple of hits’, but the impact on goodwill to the business and the compelling nature of their proposition would far outweigh the risk.

This meant operators or providers would have to tackle difficult conversations up front with consultants around fees and their proportion of the package.

Customers should potentially be risk-assessed and have this built into the price, so it took away the complexity and was much clearer, he said.

He urged providers not to baulk at providing payment options – ‘it works in dental practices and cosmetic surgery’.

Mr Gregory said there was no doubt that waiting lists would ‘burgeon beyond belief’ with serious and unsatisfied healthcare needs, and an unknown proportion would undoubtedly seek to pay for their own treatment.

The two questions they would ask were ‘If I do go private, is it going to be safe?’ and ‘Will I be able to get treatment more quickly than if I wait on the NHS?’ 

He said: ‘The next preoccupation in my view is going to be encapsulated in two questions: “Can I afford it, given the uncertainty with the economy and my own personal uncertainties?” and secondly “How much is it actually going to cost me?”

Next, on contacting the provider to understand the options, ‘they are going to expect you to get down and personal with them and to make them feel welcome and recognised’.

Price and a personalised service – the ‘me’ factor – would be the order-winners ‘and the sooner you start satisfying those order-winners, you are definitely going to start seeing a lot more self-pay demand materialising into business.’

Mr Gregory urged providers not to slip into any old habits once people returned. They needed to ‘beef up’ their game and realise that what the consumer expects is what should be driving the changes in their processes.