By Robin Stride
Consultants who have yet to decide about making any increases to their self-pay fees have been advised to check their patient demographic.
According to a self-pay expert who advises specialists and private hospitals, it is ‘wholly reasonable’ for consultants to look to pass on some of the increased costs of doing business.
But Richard Gregory advised caution: ‘As in retail, passing through the entirety of the “hit” would be counter-intuitive and potentially result in falling business on what is predominantly a fixed-cost base.
‘There is a younger demographic that has come to self-pay since the pandemic and they may be more cost-conscious than the typical silver-pound generation, who are more cash rich and generally better off, especially after saving during lockdowns.
‘If they are more price sensitive, they may disappear from the self-pay market as more control is gained over waiting lists if prices rise too steeply or too far. So a quick look at a consultant’s typical patient demographic would be a useful exercise.’
He argues that making it easier for the patient to engage in self-pay should be of equal concern.
‘Package pricing is a way to streamline the pathway as opposed to expecting a patient to get two prices and bolt them together.
‘Why make it difficult? Hospital and consultant teamwork makes total sense, building pricing packages and collaborating on opportunity generation and onboarding.’
Mr Gregory added that most private hospitals were on a calendar year pricing cycle and were currently more aggressively promoting patient payment options such as allowing the cost to be spread over time, either with an interest-free or interest-bearing loan.
The Independent Doctors Federation (IDF) encourages doctors to review their charging structures annually, according to a member of its committee.
But the doctor said it was recognised that this was not regularly done, although everyone should take account of current rising costs. Supporting staff was important – even if doctors chose to take a relative pay cut.
‘Staff need to be kept content and happy and able to do a good job, there are rent increases, supply chain issues and there have been inflationary pressures. Doctors also need to spend more time not at the coal face, which incurs costs.
‘From what I’ve heard from individuals, about 10% is what people are increasing their fees by this year; some have already done it.’
Asked if there was concern that consultants would lose business if they did raise prices, the IDF member told Independent Practitioner Today: ‘I think many recognise they can’t carry on having their fees chipped away and provide a good practice. We have evidence from outside London that a lot are doing extra NHS work.’