CMA speeds up drive for transparency

By Olive Carterton

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is cracking the whip to try and speed up its demands for publication of information about private consultants and hospitals for potential patients.

An agreed plan targeted for completion by the end of next month (June) is being worked on by a Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) forum to deliver full compliance with the competition watchdog’s legal order, made eight years ago, by June 2026. 

The competition watchdog is considering what action to take against consultants and hospitals ‘who have not engaged properly with the order’

The Private Healthcare Market Investigation Order 2014 requires the performance measures of private healthcare facilities, and independent consultants’ performance measures and fees, to be published by PHIN. 

Full compliance was expected by 30 April 2019. But CMA markets and mergers executive director David Stewart accepts full compliance has been more complicated than anyone – including the competition body – first thought it would be.

In an open letter to consultants and hospitals, he declared he appreciated the challenges brought by the pandemic. But he was now determined the parties should press forward to complete the implementation phase ‘and to deliver the benefits to patients that will flow from better quality healthcare information’. 

After attending a PHIN partnership forum, he said he was encouraged at its support for the CMA’s priority which is to ensure private patients receive the benefits arising from the order’s full implementation. 

He wrote: ‘I now expect the rest of the industry – private healthcare providers and private consultants – to also match that commitment. 

‘As the content of the strategic plan will directly affect all private healthcare providers and private consultants, I urge you to engage with PHIN about your current compliance status and any actions required. 

‘PHIN members’ portal can be found here.’

Consultant representative groups, insurers and stakeholders will be given opportunities over the next few months to contribute to the ‘roadmap’. 

Mr Stewart said the CMA would actively review progress and require a written monthly update from PHIN and was also likely to attend relevant meetings. 

He added: ‘This will allow the CMA to intervene where progress on agreeing a suitable plan does not meet the CMA’s expectations. We also appreciate that there is a need to ensure that smaller providers are also meeting their obligations under the order. 

‘In this context, over the next year, the CMA will, in addition to supporting the agreement and implementation of the plan, be taking stock of what enforcement action, if any, needs to be taken against market participants who have not engaged properly with the order.’