Watchdog gets tough

By Robin Stride

‘Fix your failures – but do it quick!’

That is the message to independent consultants and private hospitals from the competition watch­dog after it ‘named and shamed’ providers for failing to fully comply with the requirements of its Private Healthcare Market Investigation Order 2014 (PHO).

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) wrote publicly to two hospitals citing their failure to provide data for publication on performance and patient outcomes so that prospective patients had information they needed to compare consultants and healthcare providers.

Asked how many more hospitals were about to get similar letters, a spokesperson told Independent Practitioner Today: ‘It’s difficult to give an exact figure, as many hospitals are compliant, while many others are nearly compliant. The same is true of consultants. 

‘As a result of publicising these letters, we expect many more will fix their failures but they need to do so quickly.’

Both the Fortius Clinic and Ulster Independent Clinic were told by the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) they were non-compliant. Decisions to name providers also consider factors such as business size and what information is missing.

The CMA said companies received letters for these reasons:

Fortius Clinic – 

  • Failing to provide diagnosis coding for admitted patient care, plus 99% of  records submitted to PHIN contained no NHS numbers;
  • Supplying no data for patient feedback and patient-reported outcomes; 
  • Not resolving 18 data issues, making information about its consultants incomplete.

Ulster Independent Clinic – 

  • Data submitted in a non-compatible format to the approved standard for admitted patient care; 
  • No data to PHIN for adverse events, patient feedback and patient-reported outcome; 
  • Not resolving 51 data issues, leaving consultant information incomplete.

The CMA spokesperson added: ‘Patients and prospective patients would not have access to the sort of information they might need to make an informed decision about which hospital to use. 

‘For example, patient-reported outcomes allows patients to compare the quality of care and treatment across hospitals. 

‘Both of these hospitals failed to supply this important data to PHIN.’

The CMA expects the hospitals to be fully compliant by 30 September 2023, but said both those named aimed to be compliant sooner – The Ulster Indepen­dent by August 2023 and Fortius Clinic by May 2023.

PHIN said independent healthcare providers had made ‘huge progress’ to comply with their obligations to submit data.

But some had yet to do so and the lack of data meant patients could not access information that informed their choices when they are considering private treatment.

PHIN has worked with the two providers who have ‘responded positively’ to ensure all data would be submitted.

It added: ‘We are keen to help every provider to meet their obligations under the CMA Order and appeal to any organisation that needs help in submitting data for publication to contact us.’