Finally the Office of Fair Trading has decided to refer the private healthcare sector to the Competition Commission for further investigation.
There are aspects of the private healthcare market that are badly in need of reform. Transparent fee structures for patients and doctors are required. Theoretically at least NHS patients through their GP’s have the choice of which specialist doctor they can be referred to. This is not necessarily so in the private sector. Insurers are potentially able to influence patient choice by dictating which doctors patients are allowed to see. By not recognising certain doctors, insurance companies influence patient choice in the market.
The chairman of the British Medical Association’s Private Practice Committee, Derek Machin, has welcomed the announcement “the BMA has for many years called for reform of the private healthcare market so that it can deliver a system that is fairer to patients and doctors” he too has called for a probe into what he describes as “the disproportionate power of large commercial insurers over doctors”
As a consultant colorectal surgeon I am currently recognised by all the major insurers. The recent and very public stand off between BUPA and BMI hospitals and recent fee structure changes recently introduced by one major insurer (without any consultation with doctors or their professional speciality bodies) have highlighted to me the need for proper investigation and reform of the private healthcare market.
Simon Radley April 2012