‘High salaries are not sustainable’

Laingbuisson private healthcare summit 2022 

The future prospect of high salaries for consultants employed in a small number of private hospitals was thrown into question during a debate on specialists’ working arrangements.

Dr Aubrey Bristow

Consultant anaesthetist Dr Aubrey Bristow, a founder and director of the Phoenix Hospital Group in London and Chelmsford, said he thought the jury was out as to what would be feasible for the independent hospitals. 

‘Some of the salaries, from my perspective, appear to be quite generous that people tell me they’ve been offered and it will be interesting to see whether in five or ten-years’ time those hospital providers are still able to provide that level of salary for that level of work – and I don’t think we’ve actually got the answer to that.’

He doubted many consultants would want to move from full-time NHS work to employment in the private sector. The younger generation of consultants coming up had an affinity with the NHS. 

Schoen Clinic London hospital director Steve Smith said consultants wanting to join were a  mix of younger doctors wanting to dabble in the independent sector and experienced consultants who had become disillusioned with the NHS. 

‘Where do I put my money going forward? I think there is a hybrid there, I think the future, at least for the Schoen, is going to be a mix of employed and traditional practising privilege models.’

He said that during a Care Quality Commission visit to the clinic the week before, an inspector expressed strong support for the employed model. 

‘So I questioned him on that because I’m sitting here sort of looking down both sides of the road. Their view was that the outcomes of the employed model, clinically, they felt was superior. I think that’s an interesting ask and it’s certainly a discussion I’ve flagged to the inspector. I want to pick up that thread and flesh it out more.’ 

Recruitment specialist Keith Hague said large private hospital groups could not afford the payroll to compete with The Cleveland’s deep pockets. 

‘HCA would say they are employing doctors – they are not. They are employing doctors to stop them from leaving.’ It was an opportunistic way of keeping them, he said.