New legal requirement on consultants to publish their private healthcare fees
An investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found a lack of transparency in the charges patients can expect to pay when accessing private care. The impact from the lack of clear information about price is particularly felt by those self-funding their care, who are also the most vulnerable to any changes in cost arising from escalations in clinical need.
The new requirement came into force at the beginning of this month and is being implemented by the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) - the CMA-mandated ‘information organisation’ responsible for publishing independent information for patients on safety, quality and costs in private healthcare. Today PHIN began the process of contacting all consultants treating privately funded patients in the UK, asking them to provide the typical fees they charge to self-pay patients.
Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen, Chair of PHIN, said “For as long as I’ve been involved in private healthcare, the fees patients can expect to pay have not always been clear and transparent. Patients should be at the centre of their care, yet along the way, a convoluted and unclear system of fees and charges, particularly for self-pay patients, has developed. We owe it to patients to rectify this by being clear and transparent about charges.
PHIN is facilitating this process and has made this as simple as possible by allowing consultants to insert a range to cover the typical fees patients can expect to pay. This will not be an exact science but represents an important step in creating a more patient-focused industry.”
Adam Land, Senior Director at the CMA, said “Both patients and consultants will benefit from the transparency of these fees. Patients will have the information they need to choose the services they can afford, and consultants will be able to have more informed conversations with patients about the cost of treatment.”
The first to be invited to submit their fees will be the 1,600 plus consultants already appearing on PHIN’s website, where information on the scope of the treatment they provide is available alongside the average length of stay their patients stay following treatment. Remaining consultants will be contacted throughout the first quarter of 2019, with PHIN aiming to publish this information for patients on its website from April.
To ensure the information available to patients through PHIN’s website is clear and useful for patients, hospitals are also being invited to submit their ‘inclusive package’ prices - where the consultants’ fee is rolled into the hospital’s charges and presented as a single cost to the patient. This will enable PHIN to provide patients with a complete view of the price patients can expect to pay.
This has been welcomed by the Private Patients Forum as an important step in bringing much-needed clarity to how patients are presented with costs for private care, particularly when funding it for themselves.
Neil Huband from the Private Patients Forum said “The ability of a patient to be able to compare the performance of a doctor or a hospital with others and also to be able to compare costs is, we have always believed, essential. Moreover, it should be the right of every patient.
As PHIN begins the huge task of gathering and publishing prices, complex as it is, we believe this should not be looked upon simply as a burdensome legal duty, just fulfilling the orders of the CMA. This should be done because it is absolutely the ‘right thing to do’ for the patient.”