Fees rise by up to 20%

By Robin Stride

Consultants are increasing their fees by up to one fifth in the run-up to the new financial year.

Rampant inflation – higher in the medical sector than the UK’s national double-digit rate – has prompted a widespread review of pricing structures for self-pay work.

Many specialists are attempting to catch up after realising they have fallen far behind because they usually never considered annual adjustments.

Some reacted after specialist medical accountants recommended last month that Independent Practitioner Today readers should check their charges to see they at least kept pace with escalating costs. 

But the advisers warned them to be careful about discussing pricing with colleagues, because the Competition and Markets Auth­ority has been scrutinising the medical sector and has fined businesses where it believes uncompetitive practices have taken place.

Simon Brignall

A payments expert at Civica Medical Billing and Collection said many consultants who had not previously reviewed their fees were now doing so, citing increased practice costs from staffing and indemnity. 

According to head of sales Simon Brignall, double-digit inflation figures had been a tipping point and were often being matched by similar fee rises from consultants.

Increased patient footfall in their practices, especially from self-pay growth due to the NHS’s current challenges, had given them scope to implement higher fees and the confidence to do so.

He warns in this issue (page 32) that consultants typically do not set their fees effectively due to not doing enough research at the outset – ‘or it may have been many years since they last looked at them’.

 

Practice management support company Designated Medical reported many consultant customers had raised self-pay prices from between 5% and 20%.

Managing director Jane Braith­waite said: ‘We have not seen patients complain. Mostly, the increases have been accepted with no comment. The sense is that they expected this and understand the reasons.

‘My personal experience is that costs have increased and this has to be absorbed or passed on. Most people are running very efficient practices and there is little room for reducing costs further.

‘The frustration, of course, is the lack of recognition by the insurance companies. Many consultants who signed up to fee assured status are really questioning the value of continuing.’

Alec James, a partner at Sandison Easson specialist medical accountants, said: ‘It is not surprising to see the fees rising like they are, given the cost of living and inflation rates. 

‘I would envisage costs will increase for consultants, particularly in relation to clinic and staff costs. Ensuring their fees are increased accordingly in preparation of this is important.’

Meanwhile research is currently underway to examine and analyse price movements in hospitals’ self-pay packages. 

One participant said increased self-pay volume could limit fee rises here, but some consultants were reportedly being charged more per hour for the consulting rooms they used for this work.