FIPO blames insurers for slow progress

The Federation of Independent Practitioner Organisations (FIPO) fully backs the CMA’s aim to address the information deficit for patients contemplating treatment in the independent sector.

Mr Richard Packard

In a letter to the competition watchdog, the doctors’ body chairman Mr Richard Packard agreed the profession had concerns about the CMA’s mandate being unfulfilled after eight years. 

He wrote: ‘We are not surprised that you acknowledged in your letter that both the CMA and PHIN had found that the task of delivering on the report’s mandate more complex than expected.’ 

But he warned that the escalating costs of providing information to allow patients independence in their decision-making was becoming disproportionate.

And it was unlikely to be effective in the manner in which it had been pursued so far, he said. 

‘PHIN has recently approached FIPO to help frame their strategic plan to deliver the solutions to the problems highlighted by the CMA’s investigation. We at FIPO had previously made the CMA aware of our concerns in this regard.’ 

Mr Packard reflected that an improved ability for patients to choose their treatment pathway was to be at the centre of the remedies. But FIPO had pointed out to the CMA on many occasions that this is becoming increasingly difficult. 

He continued: ‘This has been brought about by constraints imposed by private medical insurers, who pay for the majority of care provided. 

‘Surely, a key feature of a free market is the absence of coerced transactions or conditions on transactions? 

‘FIPO is fully supportive of the aim of enabling patients in achieving the best healthcare experience and will be writing at greater length to update the CMA on current PMI developments, which disincentivise consultants and distort competition and remove the ability of patients in the private healthcare sector to exercise the personal choice for which they have chosen to pay. 

‘It is all very well having information about consultants and hospitals if as a patient you cannot make the choices suggested by that information.’ 

The CMA responded that it was looking into consultants’ complaints that patients’ ability to choose their treatment pathway was being constrained by private medical insurers.