PHIN’s ‘new brooms’ to renew drive for transparency

By Robin Stride

Giving patients better and more comprehensive data about their consultants and private care choices will be a key task for the new leader at the helm of the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN).

Matt James

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has made it clear what progress it expects to see under the organisation’s new chief executive, who will take up the cudgels when Matt James steps down later this year.

CMA senior director Adam Land paid this tribute to the PHIN boss: ‘We’d like to thank Matt for his hard work and commitment toward developing an independent source of data on private healthcare, in line with the CMA’s 2014 Order. Under his leadership, the PHIN website has become an increasingly useful resource for patients.’

He added: ‘We now look to PHIN and hospital operators to take the further steps necessary to ensure patients get the remaining information they need about private healthcare options, enabling them to make more informed choices on which consultant or hospital is right for them.’

PHIN founder Mr James, who has had a decade in the role, reflected: ‘We have achieved so much, establishing data flows and an expectation of transparency on quality and cost in private healthcare that will benefit patients for years to come. 

‘We have an excellent Board and team, and we are now looking for the next leader to take this mission forward with renewed energy. In my remaining time in post I will continue to spend time both within the organisation and continuing to work closely with key stakeholders.’

Paterson Inquiry response

He said it would be particularly important to maintain progress on the Government’s response to the rogue surgeon Ian Paterson inquiry recommendations, with key details on information for patients still under discussion.’ 

Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen

PHIN’s outgoing chairman Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen, who announced his own decision to step back in December, said: ‘Matt’s passion for PHIN’s mission, especially transparency and evidence-based information for healthcare consumers, has become well known and, building on his tremendous knowledge and experience, he has developed and encouraged an excellent team who have worked with him to deliver most of the elements of the CMA Order required of the organisation.’

Jayne Scott, who takes over the chairmanship from Dr Vallance-Owen in February, added: ‘‘Matt’s enthusiasm will be greatly missed, but he has left us with a strong foundation on which to start a new chapter of PHIN’s mission in partnership with our stakeholders. I wish him every success in his next endeavour.’

PHIN publishes information based on unique detailed data to help patients understand private healthcare and make meaningful choices of provider. 

In 2014, it was approved by the CMA as the independent information organisation for private healthcare, obliging all private hospitals, private medical insurers and private consultants in the UK to work with PHIN, providing data and funding. 

Obvious gaps

Reflecting on his own time with PHIN in Independent Practitioner Today’s February issue next week, Dr Vallance-Owen says he wishes more consistent high-quality data could be collected to demonstrate the quality in private practice ‘and that we could fill the obvious gaps on the website’.

He adds: ‘Unfortunately, following an initial burst of enthusiasm and engagement from consultants, too many remain unaware that there are legal obligations that fall on them to engage with PHIN.

‘Clearly, consultants have a really important role in helping patients and consumers make informed choices. 

‘While they have legal obligations, I would hope consultants will increasingly see the important role they play in ensuring that patients have access to information about safety, quality, and price.’ 

*PHIN is co-chair of NHS Digital’s Acute Data Alignment Programme (ADAPt), which will soon see PHIN’s private data routinely shared with the NHS. It employs 40 people and has an income from its members of £4.5m.