Competition commission set to investigate private healthcare

THE OFFICE of Fair Trading (OFT) has asked the Competition Commission to investigate whether Britain’s £5bn private healthcare market needs reform.

Following a public consultation the regulator decided that aspects of the industry “could work better for patients” and that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that aspects of the market prevent, restrict or distort competition.

“Private patients and their GPs face difficulties selecting private healthcare providers on the basis of quality or value for money, and this may ultimately result in patients paying higher prices, or receiving lower quality care,” said John Fingleton, the OFT’s chief executive.

Dr Natalie-Jane Macdonald, managing director of Bupa Health and Wellbeing, welcomed the decision: “For too long, the cost of private healthcare has been rising to unsustainable levels, in large part because of a lack of competition and efficiency in the private hospital market and among consultants in private practice.”

The OFT began investigating the business last year and found a number of concerns.

These include the lack of easily comparable information available regarding the quality and costs of private healthcare services; the limited number of large private healthcare providers and health insurance providers at a national level, which it said combined to create significant barriers to new competitors entering the market.